RAJA RAJA CHOLAN THE GREAT (AD 985-1014 CE)

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As a staggering administrator, intense warrior, a magnanimous philanthropist, and a lover of beautiful art and architecture, Raja Raja Cholan is an inevitable character in Tamizh and world history. From modern-day Sri Lanka in the south to Odisha in North to Malabar Coast and the Maldives, Arulmoli Varman (Raja Raja Cholan’s birth name), the Tamizh King expanded his empire throughout Asia. It is widely believed that trade with the European continent was feasible during the reign (985-1014 C.E) Raja Raja Cholan.

His political benchmark theories and generosity allowed local governance in a period where no emperor was doing it. His linchpin construction Peruvudaiyar Temple (Brihadeeswara) is the epitome of excellence since 1010 C.E. To say about Raja Raja Cholan in a single phrase – He is the KING OF KINGS. Rajendra Cholan, his son succeeded Raja Raja Cholan after his legendary father’s death in 1014 C.E.

Contents

  • Childhood & Early Life
  • The Golden era
  • A grandmaster in versatile fields
  • A man of great conduct and a patron of arts
  • Achievements
  • Conqueror of many unconquerable regions
    • Against Cheras and Pandyas
    • Conquest of Sri Lanka
    • Conflict of Chalukyas
    • Invasion of Maldives
  • Administration
  • The unsurpassed architect Raja Raja Cholan
  • The Pace-Setter
  • The Last Days of the Legend at Udayalur

Childhood & Early Life

The greatness of Raja Raja Cholan can’t be described through words. He is a legendary king, who prophesied the future and led his country a step forward. Rajakesari Arulmozhi Varman as he was known during his childhood days, came to the throne in the month of July 985 AD. Being the third son of Paramtaka II also known as Sundara Cholan and Vanavan Madevi, he had great learnings from his parents and scholars. Even as a Yuvaraj, Raja Raja Cholan had great visions on his kingdom and his rule.

The Golden era:

As Raja Raja Chola accessed the throne, the golden era bloomed. The personal ability of Raja Raja Cholan makes him a peerless ruler of all rulers and the greatest of all the great Chola emperors. He not only made himself a peerless leader but also guided his son Rajendra I to follow his steps and laid a great foundation for his splendid achievements.

Under Raja Raja Cholan rule the empire attained its greatest extant and carried its arms beyond the seas. The reason why his rule is hailed as the golden age is because of the flawless civil service and well-planned irrigation system. Raja Raja Cholan was very determined in maintaining a strong military force.

A grandmaster in versatile fields

The Interests of Raja Raja Cholan can’t be labeled as one. He is the man of multi-facets, with a great passion for many things. He is a remarkable architect, efficient economist, lover of art and literature, an eminent philosopher, and above all a supreme thinker. His ideologies are far beyond our knowledge. Through his organization in the field of art and architecture; in religion and literature, we can witness the work of a powerful force newly liberated by the progressive imperialism of the time.

Raja Raja Cholan was the very first Tamil king to come up with the great idea of formulating an official record of all the chief events of his rule and his achievements. Not to blow his own trumpet but to make his successors follow the path of wisdom.

A man of great conduct and a patron of arts

It’s no wonder that this great King of many facets has a heart of gold. His personality is much praised than his heroic deeds. He loved his family very dearly and the affection he lavished on his family members can be read through many of the literary works.  A trace of feminism can be spotted in his deeds, like giving first respect to his elder sister Kunthavai and his grand-aunt Sembiyan Mahadevi. His elder Sister acted as his personal advisor and even holds a privileged position in his court, after whom he even named one of his beloved daughters.

Raja Raja Cholan showered the same love and affection to his disciplines. To understand the real livelihood of his subjects, he often went in disguise. During his rule, the land was devoid of poverty and robbery. He introduced many new schemes for the benefit of the public. He was one among those few rulers who really care for the happiness of their people.

Raja Raja Cholan holds a great fascination for fine arts and letters. He never says no to artists and spared no pains to encourage them. He was very generous in showering incredible gifts to artistic talents. History praises of his spontaneity in granting lands and fortune to poets and musician. Even his daughter Kunthavai was said to be a veteran classical dancer. He not only glorified the art and dance of this region but also encouraged the arts of the various region. He even well-knit together the arts of various culture and present it in a brand new way.

Achievements

He was successful in most of his conquests within 14 years of his reign, bringing the Pandyas, Bellary, Eastern Mysore, Tadigaipadi, Vengi, and Coorg under his possession. He built the spectacular Siva temple in Thanjavur, known as Brihadeeswarar Temple or Big Temple, which is, today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’.

Conqueror of many unconquerable regions:

The Chola military was a well-organized and effective fighting force during medieval times. With his capital at Thanjavur, he utilized the first few years in building a strong army and preparing for military expeditions. Rajaraja Chola I created a powerful standing army and a considerable navy, which achieved even greater success under his son Rajendra Chola I than under himself. The army consisted of the Infantry, Cavalry and Elephant corps. 

Raja Raja Cholan was the first to assume the title “ Mummudi Chola Deva”( being adorned with three crowns of Chola, Chera and Pandya) at a very young age. Raja Raja Cholan’s first praised victory was the acquisition of Kerala country which was ruled by the Cheras. The historic literary works like Thiruvalangadu plates and the Meykkirtti states the capture of Madurai and conquer of Pandya King Amarabujanga.

Conquest of Sri Lanka

After conquering most of South Indian regions, Raja Raja Chola the great set his eyes on Izham (Srilanka). Raja Raja the Great is said to have conquered Izhamandalam, which was ruled by the fierce king Singhalese and anchored the Chola flag.

Polonnaruwa-temple-srilanka
The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first established by the Chola dynasty as their capital in the 10th century and today the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared as a World Heritage Site.

His thirst for the region was insatiable, he expanded his reign in most of the Northern Sri Lanka, which came to be known as the “Mummudi Chola Mandalam”. And to signify his power over Srilanka he constructed a stone temple at Polanaruva.

Conflict of Chalukyas

Through his remarkable military techniques and tireless army, he won over lots of regions like Gangapadi, Nulambapadi, Thandigaipadi which comprises the present Karnataka. And the ceaseless fight over Nulambapadi and Ganapadi led to the annexure of Kongu region to the Chola kingdom. The continual victory led the Cholan army to move forward the North. Later Raja Raja Cholan targeted the Chalukyas. The inscriptions state that Raja Raja Cholan captures the Rattapadi in about 1005 AD, which led to the annexure of North-west to the Chola Empire.

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Raja Raja Cholan The Great

Raja Raja Cholan was a mastermind in politics. Without waging a war, he brought Vengi kingdom in close connection with the Cholas, by giving his daughter Kundhavai in marriage with the Vengi prince Vimaladithan. But some inscriptions and history work state that, the marriage between Kundhavi and Vimaladithan was a love marriage.

Invasion of Maldives

The naval army of Raja Raja Cholan was one of its kind, and it is truly an undefeatable one. After conquering many lands, finally, Raja Raja Cholan army conquered the islands of Maldives. Though there is no proper record on this conquest, there is sufficient indication that Raja Raja Cholan army did anchor their flag successfully.

Administration

Raja Raja Cholan was not only a peerless soldier but also a wise administrator. His intellectual supremacy is evident through his strong and centralized bureaucratic government. He appointed many noblemen as the representative of the government in separate regions and had a keen note of every happening at each and every place of his rule. He was the one who introduced the audit bureau to organize the general affairs at Village and town assemblies.

The unsurpassed architect Raja Raja Cholan

Being the ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, King Raja Raja Cholan built the world-famous Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, with his utmost passion and brilliant architectural Style. The Brihadeeswarar Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Thanjavur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as RajaRajeswara Temple Rajarajeswaram and Peruvudayar Temple. Every nook and cranny of this colossal temple speaks of Raja Raja Chola’s fame. The deity was first named as the “Rajarajeshwar” and later during the reign of Marathas, the deity was called as the Brahadeswar or the great Ishwara.

Thanjavur Brihadeeswarar Temple

According to the temple facts, the main sanctum was built purely with granite stones. It is believed that more than 130,000 tons of granite had been used in the construction of this specific building. The Vimana i.e the main sanctum, which is six stories high and measures about 66m height. And the main vimanah is hollow tower above with a huge boulder is places. Brahadeeswarar temple is the only temple which has this kind of structure among the temples of Tamilnadu. Even the construction of the walls of main sanctum is unique. It is built using interlocking bricks and to our wild guess, it is built without using any binding materials.

Yet another totally outlandish fact is that the shadow of the main sanctum never falls on the ground, be it any time of the day. The lovely paintings in the walls of the Big temple and the numerous inscriptions that were found around bear ample testimony to this fact.

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The Pace-Setter

Raja Raja Cholan has a clear vision and tireless energy in implementing his ideas and aspirations. His supremacy lies in the way he implements his innovations and accomplishes any herculean task with great foresight, along with proper insight in resolving intricate problems both in war field and in day to day administration. He is undoubtedly a mastermind of his age, who had infused a new vigorous in the blood that kept the whole empire on a high spirit.  It is evident through his administration that he is the forerunner in various aspects of statecraft.

The Last Days of the Legend at Udayalur

The last days of this heroic ruler are a little bit tragic as he was said to be bedridden for some period. The exact cause of his death and the reason for his demise is still an unrevealed fact. Inscriptions that bore Raja Raja cholan’s glories and achievements failed to track his death. This king of remarkable deeds now sleeps an eternal sleep in a quaint village named Udayalur near Tanjore. And that too this place was recently found and the site with a half-buried lingam has been claimed as the burial ground of King Raja Raja Cholan. It is believed that King Raja Raja Cholan presented this place to one of wives, Ulagamuzhuthudaiyal and named this village as Ulagamuzhuthudaiyalur, which gradually transformed as udayalur.

udayalur-raja-raja-cholan-samathi

There are lots of commotion over the burial place of Raja Raja Cholan.  The inscription found in a Palkulathu Amman temple talks about the rebuilding of a grand hall that was raised before the grand palace of Sri Raja Raja Thevar, which was worn out. And according to the historian, the thiru Mandapam was nothing but the Memorial temple for Raja Raja Cholan. Many went a deep search on the Pallipadai of Raja raja Cholan.

Pallipadai is building a shiva shrine over the burial ground of great people. This culture came to practice during the late Chola rule. So the Pallipadai at Udayalur and the inscription nearby perfectly link together and enhances the fact that Udayalur is the burial place of Raja raja Cholan.

If you want to know more about Udayalur, click here

Though his death may be a mystery his life is a glorified history. He is one of the greatest empires ever ruled this world. King Raja Raja Cholan will live through his incredible works that sing his praise till the doom’s day.

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Tamil Nadu is one of the historic states in India. The Southern India state is a treasure of ancient heritage sites and cultural legacy. The heritage tours of Tamil Nadu comprise architectural galore of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Great Living Chola Temples, magnificent sculptures and colonial charms.

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