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 signify his victory Kopperunchinga I assumed the title Sakalabhuvanachakravartin (Emperor of the Universe) and the epithet Solanai-sirai-yittu-vaittu Solanadu-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.
Extent of influence
The Pallava king seems to have had extensive influence over the deccan and other parts of subcontinent. A festival in his honor was conducted in great ancient temples at sree kalahasti (now in AP), Draksharama coinciding with the king's natal asterism of tiruvonam. This is evidenced in epigraphs.The Pallava chief also seems to have had extensive influence in the Asian region as we see traders from kingdoms on banks of river ganga namely radha desam (southern UP) visiting the country for trade. Certain official called kambujattu acharya from kambujadesam (Vietnam), came and took charge as priestly official at srirangam temple during his time.This is evidenced by epigraphs. The epigraph registers an order of the officer Solakon,an officer of kopperunjingan exempting from taxes the lands given for the maintenance of our gardeners looking after the garden called ‘Tiruchchirrambalamudaiyan-tirunandavanam’ which was formed by Gangayar(meaning from banks of ganga) Tiruchchirrambalamudaiyar alias Udaiyar Isvarasivar of Savarnna-gotra and belonging to the Southern Radha country in Uttarapatha(UP), for providing garlands to the god Udaiyar Tiruchchirrambalamudaiyar and the goddess Tirukkamakkottamudaiya-Periyanachchiyar.
Kopperunchinga I was a patron of Tamil literature. He was addressed by his officials as devar tirumeni. 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. It was at this ancient temple at tiruvennainallur that he presented the deity with a necklace containing 2088 gems, reportedly a personal gift to the king's ancestor by lord indran, the king of gods, seeking his blessing for war victory.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 to mark his victory over the Hoysalas.He is also known to have undertaken many infrastructure building activities like laying roads, opening schools and colleges,building water tanks and ponds and canals,improving agricultural infrastructure. A magnificent library consisting of several storeys was built by him on banks of river pennai.The same is non existing now.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/