Kopperunchinga I (reigned c. 1216–1242 CE) was a Kadava chieftain who played a major role in the political affairs of the Tamil country. At one time an official in the service of the Chola king Kulothunga Chola III (1178-1218), Kopperunchinga utilised the opportunity arising out of the Pandyan invasion of the Chola country to become an independent king. Inscriptions of Kopperunchinga I are not many, since his kingdom was still in the making during the major part of his life, when he was actively engaged in conflict with other powers.
Rise of Kopperunchinga
Kopperunchinga I, who is referred variously as Jiya-Mahipati, Alagiyasiyan, Sakalbhuvana-chakravartin Kopperunjinga and Manavalapperumal, was a subordinate of Kulothunga Chola III between 1191 and 1195. During this period the Chola empire was declining after many years of glory. During the final years of Kolothunga III's rule, the Pandya Maravarman Sundara Pandya defeated his son Rajaraja III and made the Chola subordinate to Pandya rule, thus marking the beginning of the final demise of the Cholas. Kopperunchinga I, though related to the Chola king by marital ties and an officer in his government until c. 1213, took advantage of the confusion and strengthened his personal position by garrisoning the town of Sendamangalam in the former South Arcot district, converting it into a military stronghold.
Conflicts with Yadavas and Hoysalas
Kopperunchinga's ambition to increase his power brought him into conflict with the Yadava king Singhana II, with whom he fought a battle at Uratti in 1222 or 1223 CE. Soon after this he had another engagement, with the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha II in 1224. The Hoysala king won this battle and the Kadavas were suppressed for a while. On re-establishing the supremacy previously exercised by the Cholas, the Hoysala king assumed the titles Establisher of the Chola country and Destroyer of the demon Kadavaraya.
Defeat of the Cholas
Kopperunchinga's defeat at the hands of the Hoysalas did not hold him back long. He presently defeated the Chola king Rajaraja Chola III at the battle of Tellaru and imprisoned the king and his ministers at Sendamangalam in 1231-1232 as he did not know him very well. Rajaraja Chola III immediately appealed to the Hoysala king for help. A Chola inscription states that Kopperunchinga was helped by the Lanka king Parakrama Bahu II in the battle. To signalize his victory Kopperunchinga I assumed the title Sakalabhuvanachakravartin (Emperor of the Universe) and the epithet Solanai-sirai-yittu-vaittu Sonadu-konda Alagiyasiyan (Alagiasiyan who imprisoned the Chola and conquered the Chola country).
Defeat of the Hoysalas
While the Hoysala king was preparing to lay siege to Kopperunchinga's capital of Sendamangalam to counter the Kadava's rise, Kopperunchinga engaged the Hoysala armies at Perumbalur near Tiruchi in 1241 and killed the Hoysala generals Kesava, Harihara-Dandanayaka and others and seized their women and property. To protect against further attacks from the Hoysalas, Kopperunchinga built a fort at Tiruvenkadu on the banks of the river Kaveri. At the time of his death in 1242, he left his kingdom in a strong position. The king informs through an inscription as to how prior to his expedition against both sundara pandyan and hosal he was in his dream ordered by Goddess mother earth to destroy the evil kingdoms that were causing burden to her.
Kopperunchinga I was a patron of Tamil literature. A great devotee of the god Nataraja at Chidambaram, he constructed the southern and eastern gopura (towers) of the temple there; he also greatly improved the ancient temples at Vennainallur and Vriddhachalam. The temple for goddess Bhagawati(durga) at chidambaram, which is still a cynosure for the eye was built by him in 1231 A.D. By this the pallava chieftain was probably signalling his intent of being brutal towards evil and opportunistic dynasties like the hoysalas that took centre stage albeit briefly due to the fall from grace of cholas. To mark his victory over the Hoysalas, he performed several deeds of munificence during a pilgrimage to various sacred places on the southern bank of the river Kaveri in Solamandalam.
- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955, reprinted 2002). A History of South India. OUP, New Delhi.
- South Indian Inscriptions - http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/