Raja Raja Chola I

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Rajaraja Chola I
Parakesari, Rajakesari, Mummudi Cholan, Raasakandiyar, Kallakesari
Raraja detail 140x190.jpg
Reign 985–1014 CE
Predecessor Uttama Chola
Successor Rajendra Chola I
  • Lokamahadevi
  • Cholamahadevi
  • Trailokyamahadevi
  • Panchavanmahadevi
  • Abhimanavalli
  • Iladamadeviyar
  • Prithivimahadevi
Dynasty Chola Dynasty
Father Sundara Chola
Mother Vanavan Mahadevi
Born 947 CE
Died 1015 CE
Religion Hinduism, Shaivism

Raja Raja Chozhan I (Tamil: ராஜ ராஜ சோழன்), born Arulmozhi Thevar[1][2] (also known as Raja Kesari Varman Raja Raja Devar[3] and respectfully as Peruvudaiyar), popularly known as Raja Raja the Great (Raja Raja literally translates to 'the King of Kings'), is one of the greatest Emperors of India, who ruled between 985 and 1014 CE. He went down in history as the harbinger of the heights of Chola glory.[4] It was during his reign that the Chola Dynasty started to emerge as a great Empire.[5] By conquering several kingdoms in India, he expanded the Chola Empire as far as Sri Lanka in the south, and Kalinga (Odisha) in the northeast. Raja Raja Chola was one of the greatest sovereigns of South India, a valiant conqueror and empire builder, an able administrator, a patron of arts and letters and a great builder.[4] He was a great patron of Tamil literature as during his reign the texts of the famous Tamil poets Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar were collected and edited into one compilation called Thirumurai.[6] He initiated a massive project of land survey and assessment in 1000 CE which strengthened the Imperial administration and which led to the reorganization of the Empire into units known as valanadus.[7][8]He built the famous Brihadeeswarar Temple which is one of the largest and tallest temples in India.[9]

He fought many battles with the Western Chalukya Empire to the north and the Pandyan Dynasty to the south. By conquering Vengi, Rajaraja laid the foundation for the Later Chola dynasty. He launched several naval campaigns that resulted in the capture of Sri Lanka, Maldives and the Malabar Coast.[5]


The key dates of Raja Raja's rule are difficult to come by. Scholar N.Sethuraman concludes that he was born in circa 947 CE, was crowned on 18 July 985 and died in 1014 in the Tamil month of Maka.[10]

Popular Prince[edit]

Raja Raja Chola was born in Tirukoilur ( headquarters of Nadu Naadu) as Arulmozhi Varman, the third child of Parantaka Sundara Chola (Aditya Karikala was the elder son and Kundhavai the elder sister) and Vanavan Maha Devi of the Velir Malayaman dynasty[citation needed]. Aditya Karikala was declared as the crown prince. During the lifetime of his father Sundara Chola, Arulmozhivarman had carved a name for himself through his exploits in the battles against the Sinhala and Pandyan armies. Sundara Chola’s eldest son and heir apparent Aditya II was assassinated under unclear circumstances.[11] Madhuranthaga, as the only child of Gandaraditya (the brother of Arinjaya Chola), wanted the Chola throne as he felt it was his birthright. After the death of Aditya II, Madhuranthaga was declared by Sundara Chola as the heir apparent ahead of Arulmozhivarman.[11] Arulmozhivarman ascended the throne after the death of Madhuranthaga (Uttama Chola).[11] The Thiruvalangadu copper-plate inscriptions say:

"…Though his subjects…entreated Arulmozhi Varman, he…did not desire the kingdom for himself even inwardly ".

This was to say that Raja Raja was legally elected through the kind of democratic process followed by Cholas as seen in their Uttiramerur inscription. This is widely accepted as the correct interpretation. Another example of such a process is the selection of Sri Nandi Varman II to the Pallava throne. It could very much be possible that the king rejected the offer in order to continue to devote time and energy to build the resources to realize the Chola military objectives. Madhuranthaga made a compromise with Sundara Chola that Madhuranthaga will be succeeded by Arulmozhi and not his own son. The Thiruvalangadu inscription again states:

"Having noticed by the marks (on his body) that Arulmozhi was the very Vishnu, the protector of the three worlds, descended on earth, [Madhuranthaga] installed him in the position of Yuvaraja (heir apparent) and himself bore the burden of ruling the earth…"

Military conquests[edit]

Raja Raja Chola inspects the bas-relief ofhis explots in Tajore A.D

Southern wars[edit]

The southern kingdoms of Pandyas, Cheras and the Sinhalas were often allied against the Cholas.[12] It was the case when Rajaraja came to the throne. Rajaraja's initial campaigns were against the combined Pandya and Chera armies. There is no evidence of any military campaign undertaken by Rajaraja until the eighth year of his reign. During this period he was engaged in organising and augmenting his army and in preparing for military expeditions.[13] Raja Raja I had his capital at Thanjavur.

Kandalur Salai[edit]

The first military achievement of Rajaraja’s reign was the campaign in Kerala c. 994 CE. Rajaraja’s early inscriptions use the descriptive ‘Kandalur salai kalamarutta’ (காந்தளுர் சாலைக் களமறுத்த). In this campaign Rajaraja is said to have destroyed a fleet in the port of Kandalur, which appears to have been situated in the dominions of the Chera King Bhaskara Ravi Varman Thiruvadi (c. 978–1036 CE).[13][14] Inscriptions found around Thanjavur show that frequent references are made to the conquest of the Chera king and the Pandyas in Malai-nadu (the west coast of South India). Kandalur-Salai, which later inscriptions claim to have belonged to the Chera king, was probably held by the Pandyas when it was conquered by Rajaraja. Some years' fighting apparently was necessary before the conquest could be completed and the conquered country could be sufficiently settled for its administration could be properly organised.[15] In the war against the Pandyas, Rajaraja seized the Pandya king Amarabhujanga and the Chola general captured the port of Virinam. To commemorate these conquests Rajaraja assumed the title Mummudi-Chola, (the Chola king who wears three crowns – the Chera, Chola and Pandya) and according to tradition the title Raja Raja was conferred on him by serving members of Chidambaram temple of ancient who had also the duty of conducting the swearing in ceremony of chola and pallava princes.

Malai Nadu[edit]

In a battle against the Cheras sometime before 1008 CE, Rajaraja 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 this sacking of Udagai. Rajaraja's son Rajendra was the Chola general leading the army in this battle.[13] A place named Udagai is mentioned in connection with the conquest of the Pandyas. The Kalingattu-Parani refers to the "storming of Udagai" in the verse, which alludes to the reign of Rajaraja. The Kulottunga-Cholan-ula also mentions the burning of Udagai. This was probably an important stronghold in the Pandya country, which the Chola king captured. The Tamil poem Vikkirama Cholan ula mentions the conquest of Malai Nadu and the killing of 18 princes in retaliation of the insult offered to an envoy.[16]

Sri Lanka conquest[edit]

To eliminate the remaining actor in the triumvirate, Rajaraja invaded ancient Sri Lanka in 993 CE. The copper-plate inscription mention that Rajaraja’s powerful army crossed the ocean by ships and burnt up the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Mahinda V was the king of Sinhalese. In 991 CE, Mahinda’s army mutinied with help from mercenaries from Kerala. Mahinda had to seek refuge in the southern region of Ruhuna. Rajaraja utilised this opportunity and invaded the island. Chola armies occupied the northern half of Lanka and named the dominion ‘Mummudi Chola Mandalam’. Anuradhapura, the 1400-year-old capital of Sinhala kings was destroyed. The destruction was so extensive the city was abandoned. Cholas made the city of Polonnaruwa as their capital and renamed it Jananathamangalam. The choice of this city demonstrates the desire of Rajaraja to conquer the entire island. Rajaraja also built a Temple for Siva in Pollonaruwa.[16] RajaRajan's desire to bring the whole Lankan island under Cholan empire was never fulfilled and the southern part of the island (Ruhuna) remained independent. His son Rajendra Chola led the conquest continued in the year 1017 and brought the entire island under Chola rule.[17] King Mahinda V was imprisoned by Rajendra Chola and taken to South India. Later led Vikramabahu of Ruhuna rebellion against the Chola Empire. He allied with Pandyas and Cheras against the common archenemy Cholas. King Vijayabahu I successfully drove the Cholas out of Sri Lanka in 1070, reuniting the country for the first time in over a century.[18][19]

Northern Wars[edit]

Rajaraja also expanded his conquests in the north and northwest. The regions of Gangapadi (Gangawadi), Nolambapadi (Nolambawadi), Tadigaipadi came into Chola possession during Rajaraja.

Mural found in the Brihadeesvara temple, Tamil Nadu, 11th century. The belief that this represents Rajaraja Chola (in the background) and his guru Karuvurar is contested.[20]

Ganga Wars[edit]

Before his 14th year c. 998–999 CE, Rajaraja conquered Gangapadi (Gangawadi) and Nurambapadi (Nolambawadi), which formed part of the present Karnataka State. This conquest was facilitated by the fact the Cholas never lost their hold of the Ganga country from the efforts of Sundara Chola. Nolambas who were the feudatories of Ganga could have turned against their overlords and aided the Cholas to conquer the Gangas, who were the chief bulwark against the Chola armies in the northwest.

The invasion of the Ganga country was a success and the entire Ganga country was under the Chola rule for the next century. The easy success against the Gangas was also due to the disappearance of Rashtrakutas c. 973 CE as they were conquered by the western Chalukyas. From this time, the Chalukyas became the main antagonists of Cholas in the northwest.

Western Chalukya Wars[edit]

During the reign of Rajaraja Chola, there were continuous wars with the Western Chalukyas to assert supremacy and there are multiple epigraphic evidences that show that the Cholas were constantly fighting with the Chalukyas or against the vassals of the latter. It is unclear as to why Rajaraja mounted an invasion against Satyasraya.Some fragmented inscriptions and place history (sthala puranam) documents available at a small saivite shrine 13 kms to east of villavanallur near pondicherry gives some interesting data. It refers to a king called swetakethu who supposedely reigned that region of chalukya vishaya during first of epochal ages called krita yugam. The king supposedely offered worship in the temple to be cured of eye ailments and presented the temple with a garden(poonthoppu) and many other gifts. The epigraph refers to this chalukya vishayam as being a subdivision of then tamilakam and a part of konkana desam or the region of konkan. Sangam literature refers to many kingdoms and rulers of the region like konkanan kilan, kocar etc. Many temples are also being mentioned as being part of the region. This being the case the new occupants of the region were probably illegal migrants and that their kingdom probably lacked a constitutional status as per vedas. This is once again clear as we see that communal jainism being their state religion.Where as this is only a case against that kingdom the reasons for war may have been further trouble like for example blocking trade route and favouring communal groups.

According to historian Eugen Hultzsch the circumstances that led to the war are not mentioned in any of Rajaraja's inscriptions. But we do know that the rulers of these two conquered provinces were originally feudatories of the Rashtrakutas.[21] An inscription of Irivabedanga Satyasraya from Dharwar describes him as a vassal of the Western Chalukya Ahvamalla for he describes himself as a bee at the lotus feet of Ahavamalldeva in 1002 A.D. An inscription of Rajaraja asserts that he captured Rattapadi by force. Rajendra led the Chola armies against the Western Chalukyas and would turn Manyakheta, the Chalukyan capital into his own playground. Raja Raja I claims damages worth "seven and a half lakshas from Irattapadi which was evidently the site of war with Satyashraya resulting in victory for Raja Raja I and payment of damages by the Chalukya king. Chalukya kingdom Satyashraya would renege on his promise of agreeing to Chola suzerainty, but would be defeated by Rajendra Chola I when he became king. Irivabedanga Satyasraya partially acknowledges this Chola onslaught in his Hottur (Dharwad) inscription as he screams in pain. In his own words he calls himself the ornament of Chalukya race and the slayer of the Tamil. He identifies his opponent as Rajaraja Nittavinodha Rajendra Vidyadhara, the ornament of the Chola kula Nūrmadi Chola(one hundred times more powerful).[22] In the same inscription, he accuses Rajendra of having arrived with a force of 900,000 and of having gone on rampage in Donuwara thereby blurring the moralities of war as laid out in the Dharmasastras.[23] He says that his opponent destroyed the caste (jāti nāsa) of his people. Historians like James Heitzman, Wolfgang Schenkluhn conclude that this confrontation displayed the degree of animosity on a personal level between the rulers of the Chola and the Chalukya kingdoms, the feeling of otherness and their inability to identify with the other side that degenerated to a level of violence that overthrew the established social order(destruction of caste). They also draw a parallel between this relationship and the enmity between the Chalukyas of Badami and the Pallavas of Kanchi.[24] There is also epigrahic evidence of earlier encounters between the Cholas and the Hoysalas who were vassals of the Western Chalukyas during the reign of Rajaraja Chola. An inscription from the roof of the Gopalakrishna temple at Kaleyur in the Tirumukudalu Narasipur taluk dated in Saka 929 being current, Parabhava, corresponding to 1006 A.D, records that Rajaraja's viceroy Aprameya displayed his valor by slaying the Hoysala minister Naganna and multiple other generals of the Hoysalas like Manjaga, Kalega(or Kali Ganga), Nagavarman, etc.[25] There is also a similar inscription in the Channapatna taluk that shows Rajaraja crushing the Hoysalas.[26] Rajaraja evidently attached much importance to his victory over Satyasraya, as he is said to have presented gold flowers to the Rajarajesvara temple on his return from the expedition. At the end of this war, the southern banks of the Tungabadhra river became the frontier between these two empires.

War against Vengi[edit]

"The cholas in pursuit of their objective of annihilating to ground evil kingdoms" and hence destroy the excessive wickedness of age of Kali had clashed with many kingdoms and one of which was Vengi. Parantaka Chola I who had made extensive conquests had in fact subdued the Deccan kingdom that flourished in this region in 913.C.E. Even in Inscriptions of Sundarachola we find a Chola regiment in Eastern Deccan preparing to invade Odisha. Before the invasion of Raja Raja Chola the Vengi kingdom was ruled by Jata Choda Bhima of the Eastern Chalukyas Dynasty.[27] Jata Choda Bhima was defeated by Raja Raja Chola I and Saktivarman was put on the throne of Vengi.[27] However after the withdrawal of the Chola army, Bhima entered Vengi and captured Kanchi in 1001 AD but Raja Raja Chola took swift measures and expelled Bhima from Kanchi and advanced as far north as Kalinga and killed Bhima and firmly established Saktivarman I on the throne of Vengi.[27] The accession of Saktivarman I on the throne of Vengi with the help of Raja Raja Chola marked the end of Vengi as an independent kingdom and became a subordinate kingdom of the Chola Empire.[27]

Some of Chola Inscriptions of Raja Raja note how during a war against Vengi, the king himself took initiative and killed the ruler called Bhima ruling that area because " he felled one of his commanders". Thus even if Cholas had reigned supreme in Eastern Deccan it was certainly a military vision and the small province of Vengi most probably served as a military base for Cholas who frequently sent in expeditions to Odisha and Western Deccan. We know about such base building activities down south in Pandyan country and also near Suchindram and Colombo in Lanka where the Cholas are known to have built naval bases and also " some temples for Lord Vishnu ".

Kalinga conquest[edit]

The invasion of the kingdom of Kalinga must have occurred subsequent to the conquest of Vengi.[28] His son Rajendra Chola, as the commander of the Chola forces invaded and defeated the Andhra king Bhima.

Naval Conquests[edit]

Detail of the main gopura (tower) of the Thanjavur Temple

One of the last conquests of Rajaraja was the naval conquest of the ‘old islands of the sea numbering 12,000.[29]

There are no further details regarding this expedition, however this is a sufficient indication of the abilities of the Chola Navy, which was utilised effectively under Rajendra I. The Chola Navy also had played a major role in the invasion of Sri Lanka.[30]

The increasing realization of the importance of a good Navy and the desire to neutralize the emerging Chera Naval power were probably the reasons for the Kandalur campaign in the early days of Rajaraja’s reign.[31]

The Cholas controlled the area around of Bay of Bengal and turned it to Chola Lake. Nagapattinam on Bay of Bengal was the main port of the Cholas and could have been the navy headquarters. The success of Raja Raja allowed his son Rajendra Chola to expand the Chola empire beyond the Bay of Bengal Sea. Rajendra Chola improved the ships of his father and was the First Indian Ruler to establish the First Indian Naval Fleet some 1200 years back. He had established his rule extending from India up to South East Asia with his Naval Fleet. Rajendra Chola annexed Java, Sumatra, Bali, parts of Malaysia, Brunei islands and demanded tribute from Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia.

Thanjavur Temple[edit]

Main article: Brihadisvara Temple

Rajaraja’s reign is commemorated by the Siva temple in Thanjavur, called Raajarajeswaram. The Peruvudaiyar Koyil (Tamil: பெருவுடையார் கோயில், peruvuḍaiyār kōyil ?), also known as Brihadeeswarar Temple, Rajarajeswaram and ‘Big Temple', turned 1000 years old in 2010.The temple is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, forming part of the Great Living Chola Temples site.

The construction of the temple is said to have been completed on the 275th day of the 25th year of his reign.[32] After its commemoration the temple and the capital had close business relations with the rest of the country and acted as a centre of both religious and economic activity. Year after year villages from all over the country had to supply men and material for the temple maintenance.[33]

The tower or the sikhara is very high and decorated with sculptures. The entrance to the temple is a high gateway which is also beautifully decorated with sculptures called the gopuram. Nandi, Shiva's bull, guards the temple. Stories of Shiva and Parvati and moreover, eighty one poses of Bharatnatyam are carved on the walls of the temple.


Rajaraja chola territories

From the 23rd to the 29th year of Rajaraja’s rule his dominions enjoyed peace and the king apparently devoted his energies to the task of internal administration. The building of the Rajarajesvara temple in Thanjavur and the various endowments and gifts to it must have occupied a prominent place in the king’s mind during these years. He initiated a massive project of land survey and assessment in 1000 CE which strengthened the Imperial administration and which led to the reorganization of the Empire into units known as valanadus.[34][35] Before the reign of Raja Raja Chola I huge parts of the Chola territory was ruled by hereditary lords and local princes who were in a loose alliance with the Chola rulers.[36] But from the reign of Raja Raja Chola I until the reign of Vikrama Chola in 1133 CE when the Chola power was at its peak, these hereditary lords and local princes virtually vanished from the Chola records and were either replaced or turned into dependent officials.[37] Raja Raja Chola improved the administration through these dependent officials and because of this he and the succeeding Chola Emperors were able to exercise a closer control over the different parts of the Empire.[38]

Rajaraja integrated his Empire into a tight administrative grid under royal control, and at the same time strengthened local self-government.[39] He conducted a land survey in 1000 CE to effectively marshall the resources of his Empire.[39]

Rajaraja carried out a revenue and settlement during the final years of his reign. Inscriptions found in the Thanjavur temple bear testimony to the accuracy of this operation. Land as small in extent as 1/52,428,800,000 of a ‘veli’ (a land measure) was measured and assessed to revenue. The revenue survey enabled for the confiscation of lands of the defaulting landlords.[40]

Rajaraja also perfected the administrative organisation by creating a strong and centralised machinery and by appointing local government authorities. He installed a system of audit and control by which the village assemblies and other public bodies were held to account while not curtailing their autonomy.

He promoted International trade by patronising "Thisai ayirathi ettu Ainootruvar", which is an ancient Tamil trade organisation which carried on trade from the length and breadth of the Indian Ocean From the Arabia to the Malaya.

Military Organisation[edit]

Rajaraja created a powerful standing army and a considerable navy which achieved even greater success under his son Rajendra. The prominence given to the army from the conquest of the Pandyas down to the last year of the king’s reign is significant, shows the spirit with which he treated his soldiers. A number of regiments are mentioned in the Tanjore inscriptions and it is evident that Rajaraja gave his army its due share in the glory derived from his extensive conquests. The regiments listed are:

  • Perundanattu Anaiyatkal.
  • Pandita-Chola-Terinda-villigal.
  • Uttama- Chola-terinda-Andalagattalar.
  • Nigarili- Chola terinda-Udanilai-Kudiraichchevagar.
  • Mummadi- Chola-terinda-Anaippagar.
  • Vira- Chola-Anukkar.
  • Parantaka-Kongavalar.
  • Mummadi- Chola-terinda-parivarattar.
  • Keralantaka-terinda-parivarattar.
  • Mulaparivara-vitteru alias Jananatha-terinda-parivarattar.
  • Singalantaka-terinda-parivarattar.
  • Sirudanattu Vadugakkalavar.
  • Valangai-Parambadaigalilar.
  • Perundanattu-Valangai-Velaikkarappadaigal.
  • Sirudanattu-Valangai-Velaikkarappadaigal.
  • Aragiya- Chola-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Aridurgalanghana-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Chandaparakrama-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Ilaiya-Rajaraja-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Kshatriyasikhamani-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Murtavikramabharana-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Nittavinoda-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Rajakanthirava-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Rajaraja-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar
  • Rajavinoda-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Ranamukha-Bhima-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Vikramabharana-terinda-Valangai-Velaikkarar.
  • Keralantaka-vasal-tirumeykappar.
  • Anukka-vasal-tirumeykappar.
  • Parivarameykappargal.
  • Palavagai-Parampadaigalilar

In most of the foregoing names the first portion appears to be the surnames or titles of the king himself or of his son. That these regiments should have been called after the king or his son is indicative of the attachment the Chola king bore towards his army.

It is possible that these royal names were pre-fixed to the designations of these regiments after they had distinguished themselves in some engagement or other. It is worthy of note that there are elephant troops, cavalry and foot soldiers among these regiments. To some of these regiments, the management of certain minor shrines of the temple was entrusted and they were expected to provide for the requirements of the shrine. Others among them took money from the temple on interest, which they agreed to pay in cash. We are not, however, told to what productive purpose they applied this money. At any rate all these transactions show that the king created in them an interest in the temple he built.

Officials and Feudatories[edit]

Rajendra Chola was made co-regent during the last years of Rajaraja’s rule. He was also the Mahadandanayaka Panchavan Maharaya – supreme commander- of the northern and northwestern dominions. Uttarangudaiyan Kon Vidividangan alias Villavan Muvendavelan was one of the top officers (Perundaram) of Rajaraja. He figures in many of his inscriptions most notably when he and other top officers take a vow to light lamps and make other donations if they escaped from being disgraced during the military operations towards the end of Rajaraja's reign.

Paluvettaraiyars from the region of Thiruchirapalli were closely associated with the Cholas from the time of Parantaka I when he married a Paluvettaraiyar princess, were occupying a high position in the Chola administration. They were apparently enjoying full responsibility and administration of the region of Paluvur. One of the names of these feudal chieftains found in inscriptions were Adigal Paluvettaraiyar Kandan.He built a massive temple in Gangai konda cholapuram a mile stone of chola architecture. Madurantakan Gandaradityan who served in Rajaraja’s court as an important official in the department of temple affairs. He conducted enquiries into temple affairs in various parts of the country, punishing defaulters.

The other names of officials found in the inscriptions are the Bana prince Narasimhavarman, a general Senapathi Sri Krishnan Raman, the Samantha chief Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan, the revenue official Irayiravan Pallavarayan and Kuruvan Ulagalandan who organised the country-wide land surveys.

Standardised Inscriptions[edit]

Example of a typical lithic inscription of the Chola period

Due to Rajaraja's desire to record his military achievements in every one of his inscriptions he handed down to posterity some of the important events of his life. As far as we know at present, Rajaraja was the first king of South India to introduce this innovation into his inscriptions. Before his time powerful kings of the Pallava, Pandya and Chola dynasties had reigned in the South, and some of them had made extensive conquests.

The idea of Rajaraja to add a short account of his military achievements at the beginning of every one of his inscriptions was entirely his own. His action in this respect is all the more laudable because his successors evidently followed his example and have left us more or less complete records of their conquests. But for the historical introductions, which are often found at the beginning of the Tamil inscriptions of Chola, kings the lithic records of the Tamil country would be of very little value, and consequently even the little advance that has been made in elucidating the history of Southern India would be difficult.

An inscription by Rajaraja in Tamil, found in the Mulbagal district of Karnataka, shows his accomplishments as early as the 19th year. An excerpt from such a Meikeerthi, an inscription recording great accomplishments, follows:[41]

ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ் திருமகள் போல பெருநிலச் செல்வியுந் தனக்கேயுரிமை பூண்டமை மனக்கொளக் காந்தளூர்ச் சாலைக் களமறூத்தருளி வேங்கை நாடும் கங்கைபாடியும் நுளம்பபாடியும் தடிகை பாடியும் குடமலை நாடும் கொல்லமும் கலிங்கமும் எண்டிசை புகழ்தர ஈழ மண்டலமும் இரட்டபாடி ஏழரை இலக்கமும் திண்டிறல் வென்றி தண்டால் கொண்டதன் பொழில் வளர் ஊழியுள் எல்லா யாண்டிலும் தொழுதகை விளங்கும் யாண்டே செழிஞரை தேசுகொள் ஸ்ரீ்கோவிராஜராஜகேசரி பந்மரான ஸ்ரீராஜராஜ தேவர்

The historical side of Rajaraja’s intellectual nature is further manifested in the order he issued to have all the grants made to the Thanjavur temple engraved on stone. Rajaraja not only was particular about recording his achievements, but also was equally diligent in preserving the records of his predecessors. For instance, an inscription of his reign found at Tirumalavadi near Thruchi records an order of the king to the effect that the central shrine of the Vaidyanatha temple at the place should be rebuilt and that, before pulling down the walls, the inscriptions engraved on them should be copied in a book. The records were subsequently re-engraved on the walls from the book after the rebuilding was finished.

Religious Policy[edit]

An ardent follower of Saivist form of Hinduism, Rajaraja was nevertheless tolerant towards other faiths and creeds. He had several temples for Vishnu constructed and encouraged the construction of the Buddhist Chudamani Vihara at the request of the Srivijaya king Sri Maravijayatungavarman. Rajaraja dedicated the proceeds of the revenue from the village of Anaimangalam towards the upkeep of this Vihara.

Tirumurai Compilation[edit]

Raja Raja Chola embarked on a mission to recover the hymns after hearing short excerpts of Tevaram in his court.[43] He sought the help of Nambi Andar Nambi, who was a priest in a temple.[44] It is believed that by divine intervention Nambi found the presence of scripts, in the form of cadijam leaves half eaten by white ants in a chamber inside the second precinct in Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram.[43][44] The brahmanas (Dikshitars) in the temple opposed the mission, but Rajaraja intervened by consecrating the images of the saint-poets through the streets of Chidambaram.[43][45] Rajaraja thus became to be known as Tirumurai Kanda Cholan meaning one who saved the Tirumurai.[45] Thus far Shiva temples only had images of god forms, but after the advent of Rajaraja, the images of the Nayanar saints were also placed inside the temple.[45] Nambi arranged the hymns of three saint poets Sambandar, Appar and Sundarar as the first seven books, Manickavasagar's Tirukovayar and Tiruvacakam as the 8th book, the 28 hymns of nine other saints as the 9th book, the Tirumandiram of Tirumular as the 10th book, 40 hymns by 12 other poets as the 10th book, Tirutotanar Tiruvanthathi - the sacred anthathi of the labours of the 63 nayanar saints and added his own hymns as the 11th book.[46] The first seven books were later called as Tevaram, and the whole Saiva canon, to which was added, as the 12th book, Sekkizhar's Periya Puranam (1135 CE) is wholly known as Tirumurai, the holy book. Thus Saiva literature which covers about 600 years of religious, philosophical and literary development.[46]

Personal Life and Family[edit]

Rajaraja was born as Arulmozhivarman, also called as Ponniyin Selvan (son of river Ponni),"Raasakandiyar" was the third child of Parantaka Sundara Chola. Rajaraja literally means King of Kings.

Rajaraja Chola's mother, Vaanavan Maadevi, was the daughter of Thirukkovilur king, Malayamaan Thirumudi Kaari.

His elder brother Aditya II was assassinated c. 969 CE. He had great respect for his elder sister Ālvār Sri Parāntakan Sri Kundavai Pirāttiyār or more popularly referred to as Kundavai Pirāttiyār. She built a free hospital after her father; Sundara Chola Vinnagar atula salai at Thanjavur and donated extensive lands for its maintenance.[47] We also know of at least one daughter of Rajaraja called Rajaraja Kundavai Alvar who he named after his sister.[48][49] Rajaraja had a number of wives. According to inscriptions, at least 15 names are mentioned as his wives - Ulagamaga Deviyari,Thidaipiran magal Chola Madeviyar,Abhimanavaliyar,Thirailokiya Madeviyar,Panchavan Madeviyar,Piruthivi Madeviyar,Elada Madeviyar,Meenavan Madeviyar,Nakkan Thillai Alzagiyar,Kaadan Thongiyar,Koothan Veeraniyar,Elangon Pichiyar'.The mother of Rajendra I, the only known son of Rajaraja, was Vaanathi (otherwise called as Thiripuvana Madeviyar), Princess of Kodumbaalur. Rajaraja must have had at least three daughters. One of the daughter was named after Rajaraja Cholan's sister -Kundavai who was married to the Chalukya Prince Vimaladithan. Another daughter was called as Mathevalzagal and was mentioned as the Naduvit Penn (meaning middle daughter) in one of the Thiruvilachuzhi inscriptions.[50] The name of the third daughter is Chandramalli.(ref: Varalaaru Tamil Magazine (e-magazine) 85th Malar-Jan 15-Feb 15-2012)

Rajaraja was succeeded by Rajendra Chola I. His natal star was Sadhayam. It was celebrated as Sadhaya-nal vizha, a 7 day festival culminating on his star birthday during the king and his son's reign.[51] Rajaraja also bore the title Telungana Kula Kala.[52][53][54] He was also known as Rajaraja Sivapada Sekhara (he who had the feet of Lord Shiva as his crown).[55]

Historic novels featuring Rajaraja Chola-I[edit]

  1. Ponniyin Selvan,written by amarar kalki revolves around the life of raja raja chola and his ambition for annexing Lanka. Arulmozhi Varman, is the hero of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s historical novel. Its plot revolves around the mysteries surrounding the assassination of Aditya Karikalan and the subsequent accession of Uttama to the Chola throne. Kalki imagines Arulmozhi sacrificing his rightful claim to the throne by crowning Uttama during his own coronation.
  2. Arulmozhi Varman, is the hero of Vembu Vikiraman’s historical novel Nandipurathu Nayagi. The plot of the story revolves around the ascension of Uttama Chola to the throne and Raja Raja's tour to the distant sea countries.
  3. Rajaraja Cholan – Drama, written by Aru. Ramanathan, called as Kathal Ramanathan. (TKS Group made numerous Stage Shows on this Drama and later it was taken as Movie acted by Shivaji Ganesan). This drama as a book Published by Prema Pirasuram, Chennai. is made as a Study Material in South Indian Universities.
  4. Balakumaran has also written the story Udaiyar based on the life of Rajaraja Chola. While Kalki's novel describes his life at his youth at the time of the death of Aditya Karikala, Bala Kumaran deals with Rajaraja Chola's life after he becomes the emperor.
  5. In January 2007, Kaviri Mainthan – a novel set in the Chola period and a sequel to Ponniyin Selvan was written by Anusha Venkatesh, published by The Avenue Press.
  6. Sujatha wrote a novel "Kandalur Vasantha Kumaran Kathai", which deal with the situations leading Raja raja to invade Kandhalur, a sea port.
  7. Gokul Seshadri has written a novel "Rajakesari", which deals with the after effects of Kandhalur invasion, in Rajaraja Chola's life. Also there is another novel "Cherar Kottai" by the same author, which deals with the Kandhalur invasion by Rajaraja Chola.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ God & King, the Devarāja Cult in South Asian Art and Architecture: proceedings of the Seminar, 2001, published for National Museum Institute by Regency Publications, 2005: "The Chola King Arulmozhivarman, after the Makuda abhiseka was called Rajaraja cholan..."
  2. ^ Unearthed stone ends debate - The Hindu
  3. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/arts/history-and-culture/article432582.ece
  4. ^ a b A Journey through India's Past (Great Hindu Kings after Harshavardhana) by Chandra Mauli Mani p.51
  5. ^ a b South India by Stuart Butler,Jealous p.38
  6. ^ Indian Thought: A Critical Survey by K. Damodaran p.246
  7. ^ A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th century by Upinder Singh p.590
  8. ^ Administrative System in India: Vedic Age to 1947 by U. B. Singh p.76
  9. ^ The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger p.347
  10. ^ Sethuraman, N"Rajarajan Pirantha, Mudisudia, Neetha Naatkal", in "Arulmozhi" ed., N Kasinathan, Tamil Nadu
  11. ^ a b c KAN Sastri, A History of South India, p163
  12. ^ "Rajaraja began his conquests by attacking the confederation between the rulers of the Pandya and Krala kingdoms and of Ceylon" – KAN Sastri, History of South India p 164
  13. ^ a b c KAN Sastri, The Colas
  14. ^ Chakravarti, Prithwis Chandra (December 1930). "Naval Warfare in ancient India". The Indian Historical Quarterly 4 (4): 645–664. The naval supremacy of the Colas continued under the immediate successors of Rajendra. Rajadhiraja, as stated above, not only defeated and destroyed the Chera fleet at Kandalur but sent out his squadrons on an expedition against Ceylon. 
  15. ^ KAN Sastri
  16. ^ a b KAN Sastri The Colas
  17. ^ Indian History with Objective Questions and Historical Maps Twenty-Sixth Edition 2010, South India page 59
  18. ^ Codrington, H.W (1926). A Short History of Ceylon. London: Macmillan & Co. ISBN 978-0-8369-5596-5. OCLC 2154168. 
  19. ^ "A BRIEF HISTORY OF SRI LANKA". Tim Lambert. localhistories.org. Retrieved 12 September 2008. 
  20. ^ "varalaaru.com". varalaaru.com. 
  21. ^ South Indian inscriptions: Volume 2, Parts 1–2
  22. ^ Epigraphia Indica, Volume 16, page 74
  23. ^ Studying early India: archaeology, texts and historical issues, page 198
  24. ^ The world in the year 1000, page 311
  25. ^ Epigraphia Indica, Volume 30, page 248
  26. ^ Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Volume 21, page 200
  27. ^ a b c d Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.398
  28. ^ Smith, Vincent Arthur (1904). The Early History of India. The Clarendon press. pp. 336–358. 
  29. ^ 'Rajaraja is supposed to have conquered twelve thousand old isands... a phrase meant to indicate the Maldives – Keay p215
  30. ^ Kearney, p70
  31. ^ KAN Sastri, the Cholas
  32. ^ Vasudevan, p44
  33. ^ Vasudevan, p46
  34. ^ A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th century by Upinder Singh p.590
  35. ^ Administrative System in India: Vedic Age to 1947 by U. B. Singh p.76
  36. ^ Precolonial India in Practice : Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra by Austin Cynthia Talbot Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies University of Texas p.172
  37. ^ Precolonial India in Practice : Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra by Austin Cynthia Talbot Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies University of Texas p.172
  38. ^ Precolonial India in Practice : Society, Region, and Identity in Medieval Andhra by Austin Cynthia Talbot Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies University of Texas p.172
  39. ^ a b The First Spring: The Golden Age of India by Abraham Eraly p.68
  40. ^ Vasudevan, pp62-63
  41. ^ "varalaaru.com". varalaaru.com. 
  42. ^ Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 10, Part 1, page 107
  43. ^ a b c Culter 1987, p. 50
  44. ^ a b Cort 1998, p. 178
  45. ^ a b c Vasudevan 2003, pp. 109-110
  46. ^ a b Zvelebil 1974, p. 191
  47. ^ Ancient system of oriental medicine, page 96
  48. ^ Early Chola art, page 183
  49. ^ A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala States: Thanjavur District, page 180
  50. ^ Raasa Manickanar (2009), p. 169.
  51. ^ Śāṅkaram
  52. ^ The journal of Oriental research, Madras: Volume 7, By Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute
  53. ^ Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Dravidian Linguistics and the Fourteenth All India Conference of Dravidian Linguistics
  54. ^ Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, January 1981, Volume 1
  55. ^ "A Journey through India's past: Great Hindu kings after Harshavardhana (ISBN 81-7211-256-4)". Chandra Mauli Mani. Northern Book Center, New Delhi. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 


Preceded by
Uttama Chola
Raja Raja Chola I
985–1014 CE
Succeeded by
Rajendra Chola I