Rajadhiraja Chola

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Emperor Rajadhiraja Chola
இராஜாதிராஜ சோழன்
Parakesari, Maharajadhiraja, Yuddhamalla
rajadhiraja territories
Chola territories
Reign1044 C.E. – 1052 C.E.[1]
PredecessorRajendra Chola I
SuccessorRajendra Chola II
Died1052 C.E.[1]
Issuemany sons
FatherRajendra Chola I

Kōpparakēsarivarman Rājādhiraja Chōla I was an emperor of the Indian Chola empire and the successor of his father, Emperor Rajendra Chola I. He ranks among the most valiant of kings in Indian history, as noted by his numerous brilliant military victories. During his long reign, he helped his father conquer many territories and maintained the Chola authority over most of Lanka, Vengi, Kalinga, etc. and the relations with overseas domains despite a series of revolts in the territory. Rajadhiraja Chola’s record shows that he was a born fighter who was very capable of maintaining a vast and expansive empire with territories even outside the shores of India. He was a great warrior who always led his soldiers from the front. His life is a testimony to a great king who fought his own wars, standing shoulder to shoulder with his men on front lines. He earned the title Jayamkonda Chola (The Victorious Cholan) after numerous victories. Towards the end of his reign, he sacked the Western Chalukyan capital Kalyanapuram and assumed the title Kalyanapuramgonda Chola and performed a Virabhisheka (anointment of heroes) under the name Vijaya Rajendra Cholan (the victorious Rajendra Cholan).[2]

Long Apprenticeship[edit]

Rajadhiraja Chola was made co-regent very early in his reign (1018).[3] From that day onward, father and son ruled together and shared the burdens of the empire. From the inscriptions of Rajadhiraja it is evident that Rajadhiraja ruled in full regal status in the lifetime of his father. Rajadhiraja was at the forefront of most of his father's military campaigns.

Military Campaigns[edit]

Revolts in Lanka[edit]

The Buddhist text Mahavamsa shows that the years following the defeat and deportation of the Sinhalese king Mahinda V by Rajendra in 1017 CE were filled with revolt and anarchy due uprisings by the Sinhalese subjects against the reign of the Chola invaders. Mahinda was captured and transported to the Chola country as prisoner where he died 12 years later. Mahinda’s son Kassapa had formed the resistance against the Chola occupiers and the revolts were centred on Kassapa.[3]

Kassapa managed to face off the almost 95,000 strong Chola army for over six months and push them northwards from the Rohana area in southern Sri Lanka he then crowned himself Vikramabahu in 1029 C.E.[3] Cholas never intended to subjugate the entire island of Sri Lanka and only occupied the whole island for a period of about 10 years. Sinhalese resistance was assisted by various Pandyan princes against their common enemy. Pandyas had a very close political as well as marital relationship with the Sinhalese.

During Rajadhiraja’s reign this became very acute as Vikramabahu launched an all out attack on the Tamil armies to expel them from the island. He was assisted by a Pandya prince Vikarama Pandya and Jagatpala, a prince from the distant Kanauj in North India. Rajadhiraja’s forces battled and killed these princes.[4]

The version of the Mahavamsa has to be taken in the right perspective in that it states itself to be a Buddhist chronicle and its point of view is only supposed to favour Buddhist subjects. We cannot expect it to speak in very complimentary terms about non-Buddhist kings. In any case, at least in war, the Cholas were known to be very uncompromising with their enemies and believed in eliminating them rather than setting them free. whether it was the "Chalukyas", "Pandyas" or the "Ilangai kings"... their treatment was the same, which the Mahavamsa chroniclers found inhuman.What is valourous and uncompromising warfare on the part of the Cholas was described as brutal conduct when it came to describing defeats of the rulers of Eelam (Sri Lanka). The same Mahavamsa records however, prefer not to throw any light on the looting and killing of traders and businessmen from South India visiting the Island of Ilangai or even other prosperous Tamils coming to see their relations in the Island. Either the traders or ordinary citizens from Tamil country were being regularly waylaid or looted merely because the Sinhalese could not tolerate their presence in the island. The Chola kings particularly from the time of Rajendra Chola I, on coming to know of the ill-treatment meted out to the visitors from Tamil country in Ilangai, took prompt measures to punish the wrong-doers among the local Sinhalese in Ilangai, which information is available in scores of Tamil records[**].

The Chola provinces in Lanka were a separate administrative division of the empire. The deep southern half was however a Sinhalese stronghold in perpetual conflict with the Cholas. Prince Kitti, son of Vikramabahu became Vijayabahu in 1058 CE and took over the leadership of the resistance. The victorious generals of Cholas executed the captured lankan generals along with their family members, mainly in return for their disrupting traders activities from South India in the Lankan mainland by looting and killing them for their riches.[5]

Continuing Chalukya Wars[edit]

Rajadhiraja, eager to subdue the rising power of the Western Chalukyas and to restore Chola influence with the Eastern Chalukyas in Vengi, personally led an expedition into the Telugu country in 1046 CE.[6] He defeated the Western Chalukya forces in a battle at Dannada on the river Krishna and set fire to their fort.[7] This expedition was followed by number of raids into the Chalukya country by the Chola army in which they captured several generals and feudatories of Chalukya, demolished the Chalukya palace at Kampali. The victorious Chola forces crossed the Krishna river and erected a victory pillar at a place called Yetagiri.[6][7] After more fighting, Kalyani, the capital of Chalukya, which is identified as Kalyan or Basavakalyan in Bidar was sacked.[6] Cholas also placed a victory pillar in Kolhapur or Kollapuram in Maharashtra.The victorious Rajadhiraja entered the capital of the vanquished Chalukyas and his coronation was performed at 'Kalyanapura', subsequent to which he assumed the title Vijayarajendra.[7][8][9] Someshvara I was banished to places like Rodda, Kadambalige and Kogali 1000 territories in the Nolambavadi areas[**].

In 1050 CE Chalukya king Someshvara reneged on his payment of tribute to his Chola overlords and usurped the Chalukya throne from the Chola viceroy in Kalyani (modern Basavakalyan).[7] He also sent an expedition to Vengi in order to re-inforce Western Chalukyan hegemony over the Eastern Chalukyas, whom they always regarded as their dominions. It is also speculated that Someshvara I 'may' have captured Kanchi and Kalinga. However, according to Nilakanta Sastri and Majumdar, these are baseless claims because Someshvara I had as his feudatories the Uchangi Pandyas and the Nolamba Pallavas who had provided shelter to his predecessors Jayasimha-II and Satyashraya. The Nolamba Pallavas pompously held the birudas 'Lord of Kanchi', which may lead one to believe that the feudatories of the Chalukyas were ruling from Kanchi or occupying Kanchipuram, both of which presumptions are false. Also, the Cholas were controlling Kalinga through the Vengi Kings like Vimaladitya and Raja Raja Narendra who were related to the Chola Kings. While Someshvara-I did destabilise Vengi by temporarily displacing Rajaraja Narendra, this act also initially disturbed Chola connections with Kalinga. This however, was short-lived for immediately Rajadhiraja-I set off for war against Someshvara-I and that too not at Vengi or Kalinga but by the Chalukya capital itself. But that was after thoroughly preparing himself for war before which he undertook in 1052, the task of anointing his younger brother Rajendra Chola II as co-regent in preference to his own sons. The latter seems to have ascended the throne in 12th for he has the title Rajakesari from then on. When these tasks were completed, in 1054 Rajadhiraja invaded the Chalukyan territory[**].

Rajadhiraja invaded Rattamandalam (southern Karnataka) and immediately seized many of the southern parts of Chalukyan territory like Uchangi, Nulambavadi, Kadambalige, Kogali etc. These developments shook Someshvara-I, who had given himself the title of Trailokyamalla after installing his puppet in Vengi and he had to rush back to save his own kingdom and he had no option but to march against the marauding Chola armies. The two armies met at a place called Koppam on the banks of the Krishna River[**].


Rajadhiraja's inscriptions begin with the introduction tingaler-taru.[10] The following is an inscription from the Svetaranyesvara temple in Tiruvenkadu, a few miles from Vaitheeswaran temple. It mentions the king's father,

A record in the 30th year of the reign of Rajakesarivarman alias Udaiyar Rajadhirajadeva (I)

Records that one Ambalan Seyyavayar set up the image of Picchadevar(Bhikshatana), gave lands for its requirements, presented gold and silver ornaments, opened a charity house and provided for its maintenance. The same person is said to have obtained lands for the temple from the king's father, who was pleased to take Purvadesam, Gangai and Kidaram (Rajendra Chola I).[11][12]

Another inscription of the king from a temple in Chingleput district is as follows,

On the west and south bases shrine in Adhipursivara temple.

A record of the Chola king Rajakesarivarman alias Udaiyar Rajadhirajadeva (I). Records in his thirty first year, a sale of land by the assembly of the brahmadeya villages of Sundarasola-chatuvedimangalam and Vanavanmahadevi-chaturvedimangalm. It was purchased by Nagalavvaichchani alias Ariyammai, wife of Prabhakara Bhatta , a resident of Megalapuram in the Arya-desa and a devotee of the temple of Tiruvorriyurudaiaya Mahadeva. The purchased land was given to the matha called Rajendrasolan which was built by that lady. Records also other sales of land to the same lady and for the same purpose, by residents of Ennoor in Navalur-nadu, which was a sub-division of Pularkottam and by the merchants(nagarattaar) of Tiruvorriyur in the years thirty-one and twenty-seven of the same reign.[13]

From an inscription from the 29th year of his reign from the Rajagopala Perumal temple we understand that he defeated several warriors of the Chalukyan army, the most notable being Vikki (Vikramaditya), Vijayadityan and Sangamayan. In addition, it also shows the various kingdoms that acknowledged his supremacy. Here is an excerpt:

..he cut-off on the battle-field the head of Manabharanan,..seized in battle Vira-Keralan whose ankle rings were wide and was pleased to get him trampled down by his furious elephant,..he sent the undaunted king of Vēnādu [back] to the country of Cheras..he captured the salai at Kandalur,..when Ahavamallan became afraid;..when two warriors of great courage Vikki and Vijayadityan..retreated..
the tribute paid without remissions by the Villavar (Chera), Minavar (Pandya),..Salukkiyar, Kausalar, Vanganar, Konganar, Sindurar, Pangalar and Andhirar and other kings and the riches collected ..were gladly given away to those versed in the four Vedas (i.e to the Brahamanas). In order to be famed in the whole world, he followed the path of Manu and performed the horse-sacrifice.
In the 29th year (of the reign) of this king Rajakesarivarman, alias the lord Sri-Rajadhirajadeva, who was seated on the royal (throne and who had obtained) very great fame (under the name) Jayankonda-Solan, – we, the great assembly of Manimangalam, alias Rajasulamani-chaturvedimangalam, in Maganur-nadu, (a subdivision) of Sengattu-kottam, (a district) of Jayankonda-Sola-mandalam[14]

Here is an excerpt of an inscription from the Chikballapur district of Karnataka. It gives a brief overview of some of the king's exploits while he was still a co-regent of his predecessor (original in Tamil and Grantha alphabet):

In the 32nd year of the reign of Kōv-IRājakēsarivanmar alias sri-Rājādhiraja Dēva of bright intellect, who..was born to render conspicuous the ancient race of the hot-rayed god(i.e., the sun); who caused his umbrella, planted under the shadow of his father's white umbrella, to cast it's shade over the entire kingdom of his father, who conquered with his army Gangai of the prosperous north, Ilangai of the south, Mahôdai of the west and Kadāram of the east; who swayed his scepter over every region; who cut-off on the battle-field the beautiful head which was adorned with large jewels and was never without the golden crown, of Mānābharanan, the renowned king of the south(Pāndya); who sent the king of Vēnādu to heaven; who killed the king of Kalingam on the battle-field; who caused to be destroyed the ships of Kāndālûr Sālai on the sea coast; and who acquired great fame under the praiseworthy name of Jayangonda-Sōlan-
The officer Vîra-Vichchādira(Vidyadhara)-mūvēnda-vēlar..gave for the god Mahā-Nandiswaram udaiya Mahādēva, on the Nandi hill in Kalavara-nādu, a plate of gold weighing by the standard of the city, 2.5 kalanju and 1 manjādi, as an ornament to be worn by the god for as long as the sun and the moon exist.[15]

Here is the inscription from Kolar in Karnataka:

In the 35th year..Kōpparakēsarivanmar alias Vijaiya-Rājēndra Dēva, who having taken the head of Vira Pandiyan, the Salai of Seralan, Ilangai and Irattapadi seven and half lakh(country), and set up a pillar of victory at Kalliyanapuram,-took his seat on the throne of heroes and got himself anointed as Vijaiya-Rājēndra-..in the Kuvalala nādu of Vijaiya-Rājēndra-mandalam.[16]

Sometime after he ascended the throne, he placed Rajendra Chola II as a co-regent. Rajendra Chola II would reign alongside Rajadhiraja until the latter's death after which he ascended the throne.

Death on the Battlefield[edit]

He was one of the greatest and bravest warriors in the Chola dynasty and sadly perished alone in a northern battlefield (Battle of Koppam). From the manner of his death, Rajadhiraja came to be known as Yanai-mel-thunjina Devar (the king who died on the back of an elephant). From the time he was chosen heir-apparent by his father to the day when he laid down his life on the field of battle, Rajadhiraja led the life of a warrior king and led many campaigns in person. Rajadhiraja was first and foremost a soldier and possibly his great military talent formed the reason for his being preferred for succession against an elder brother of his.

Personal life[edit]

Rajadhiraja employed his father’s brother, his own brothers, elder and younger, in important offices of state and constituted them into subordinate rulers of regions of his empire. We know of the title (Trilokyam Udaiyar) rather than the actual name of a queen. His queens do not figure prominently in his records. Apart from Vijaya Rajendra, he took the titles of Virarajendra Varman, Ahavamally Kulantaka and Kalyanapurangondachola. His children seem to have been overlooked in the succession to the Chola throne for a brief time.


Vira-Vichchadira(Vidyadhara)-Muvendavelan was a prominent military officer of this king. He has made several generous donations to the various temples in Kalavara nadu, a sub-division of Nigarili-Chola-mandalam (part of present-day Karnataka) where he was deployed.[15] Vettan Panachanadi-Vānan alias Madurāntaka-tTamil-pperaiyan of Tandāngurai in Vilānādu belonging to the Pandikulasani valanadu of Sola-mandalam was the overseer of the dandanayakas.[17] Santi Kuttan Tiruvalan Tirumud Kunran alias Vijaya Rajendra Acharyan, an actor was in charge of the troupe that were responsible for enacting the Rajarajeswara Natakam (a musical), in the Brihadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur.[18][19] Velala Madurantakam alias Dandanayakan Rajadhiraja Ilangovelan was another officer from Nadar, a village of Tiraimur-nadu which was a sub-division of Uyyakondan-valanadu in Sola-mandalam. He has donated 90 sheep to a temple in Tiruvorriyur during the 3rd year of the reign of Rajendra Chola II when the latter was still a co-regent of the king.[20]


The Shaiva Siddhanta school of thought was prevalent and the Bhakti poetry of the Nayanars were encouraged and sang in the temples. We have a record dated in the twenty eighth year of the king's reign from the Adhipurisvara temple in Tiruvorriyur which mentions the Tiruttondatogai of Sundarar and the names of the sixty three Nayanars.[21]


  1. ^ a b Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 46–49. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  2. ^ Irāmaccantiran̲ Nākacāmi. Gangaikondacholapuram. State Department of Archaeology, Government of Tamil Nadu, 1970 - Gangaikondacholapuram (India) - 61 pages. p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c See Sastri, KAN, A History of South India, p165
  4. ^ See Sastri, KAN, A History of South India, p167
  5. ^ See Mendis, GC, p53
  6. ^ a b c Indian History by Reddy p.56
  7. ^ a b c d See Sastri, KAN, A History of South India, p168
  8. ^ Inscriptions in the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram records that a Dwarapala sculpture from Kalyanapura was brought to the temple by Rajadhiraja after his capture of the capital of the Chalukyas. See P.V. Jagadisa Ayyar, p 353
  9. ^ See Richard Davis, p 51
  10. ^ P. V. Jagadisa Ayyar. South Indian Shrines: Illustrated. Asian Educational Services, 1982 - Hindu shrines - 638 pages. p. 53.
  11. ^ T. V. Mahalingam. A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala States: Thanjavur District. Indian Council of Historical Research, 1992. p. 565.
  12. ^ Archaeological Society of South India (1955). Transactions, Volumes 1-5. p. 115.
  13. ^ V. Rangacharya (1985). A Topographical List of Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency, Volume I, with Notes and References. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. p. 434.
  14. ^ The Chālukyas of Kalyāṇa and the Kalachuris, page 157
  15. ^ a b Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 10, Part 1, page 202
  16. ^ Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 10, Part 1, page 42
  17. ^ Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 10, Part 1, page 35
  18. ^ Bharatanatyam, the Tamil heritage, page 42
  19. ^ Middle Chola temples: Rajaraja I to Kulottunga I (A.D. 985–1070), page 266
  20. ^ South Indian shrines: illustrated, page 53
  21. ^ P. V. Jagadisa Ayyar. South Indian Shrines: Illustrated. Asian Educational Services, 1982 - Hindu shrines - 638 pages. p. 52.
Preceded by
Rajendra Chola I
1018–1054 CE
Succeeded by
Rajendra Chola II


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