Uttama Chola

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Uttama Chola
Reign970–985 CE
PredecessorParantaka Chola II
SuccessorRajaraja Chola I
Died985 CE
QueenSorabbaiyar Tribhuvana Mahadevi,
Kaduvettigal Nandippottairaiyar
Siddhavadavan Suttiyar

Uttama Chola born Madurantaka ascended the Chola throne c. 970 CE succeeding Parantaka Chola II. According to Tiruvalangadu plates of Rajendra Chola, Madurantaka Uttama Chola's reign is placed after Aditya II. The latter may have been a co-regent of his father Sundara Chola and seems to have died before he could formally ascend the throne.[1] Uttama was the cousin of Parantaka II and was the son of the illustrious Sembiyan Mahadevi and Gandaraditya.[2][3]

Controversial ascension[edit]

The circumstances under which Uttama ascended the Chola throne is surrounded by controversy and mystery. Uttama was the son of Gandaraditya and his queen Sembiyan Mahadeviyar.[4] At the time of Gandarditya's death Uttama must have been a very young child. Due to his immaturity, his rights to the Chola throne were probably set aside and Gandaraditya's younger brother Arinjaya was crowned king.[5]

Arinjaya ruled for a very short time – possibly for less than a year and on his death, his son Parantaka II (Sundara Chola) succeeded him.[6] By the time Maduranthaka was old enough to claim the crown, Sundara Chola had two sons – Aditya Karikalan (the one who took the head of the Vira Pandya) and Arulmozhivarman.

Aditya II was assassinated c. 969 CE under mysterious circumstances.[7][8] Sundara Chola, heartbroken due to this personal tragedy, appointed Maduranthaka Chola as the heir apparent. Some also believe that Maduranthaka wanted to be the ruler but there is no evidence to prove this assertion. Others believe that Madhuranthaka had a hand in Aditya Karikala's assassination—again there is no evidence to support this claim.

What is clear from the Thiruvalangadu plates is that there was question on ascension and Arulmozhivarman chose to step aside for Madhuranthaka. Some say that Arulmozhivarman (the future Rajaraja Chola I) chose to do this to avoid civil war but again there is no evidence to support this claim. For, according to the Tiruvalangadu plates, after the death of Aditya II Karikala, the people wanted Arulmozhivarman - Aditya II Karikala's brother to be their king, but that noble prince refused to accept the offer saying that so long as his uncle Uttama-Chola wanted to be the king, he would step aside.[1]

In the case of Arulmolivarman, the description in the plates differ from his list of conquests in that they do not mention the conquest of Kandalur Salai and other such conquests. Historians brush this aside and have suggested that the composer of the plates of Rajendra Chola I may have left out the insignificant portions of his father, i.e., Arulmozhivarman. Nevertheless, we get a good idea of the list of conquests of the Rajendra Chola.

Role in Aditya II’s Assassination[edit]

A silver kavahanu of Madurantaka Uttama Chola (970-985) of the Cholas Empire (South India) (capital Tanjavûr). Dimension: 19 mm Weight: 4.3 g. Obv: Tiger sitting to the right, bow, torch, parasol, two fish to the right of the tiger, line below. Rev: Legend: Uttama Chola

We learn from an inscription dated during Rajaraja's time that the properties of some persons were confiscated as they had been convicted for treason. It is also shown that these persons were involved in the conspiracy to kill Aditya II. The inscription from Udaiyargudi dated in the second regnal year of Rajaraja Chola states that the government confiscated the lands of a few people and their relatives, namely Soman, Ravidasan alias Panchavan Brahmadhirajan, Parameswaran alias Irumudichola Brahmadhirajan and Malaiyanur Revadasa Kramavittan and the properties of his son and mother for treason and for their hand in the murder of Karikala chola who took the head of the Pandya. Among these Ravidasan and Parameswaran were government officials[9][7][8] We can safely gather that although Aditya II was killed in 969 C.E., no action had been taken by Uttama during his reign to bring justice to the perpetrators. K.A.N. Sastry in his authoritative Colas says that based on an inscription at the temple at Udayarkudi, circumstantial evidence pointed to Uttama's culpability in the assassination.

However, later research indicates that Sastry may be wrong in this claim, and possibly interpreted the Tamil inscriptions incorrectly. It seems reasonable to conclude that if there was any evidence against Uttama Chola, Rajaraja's son Rajendra would not have assumed the coronation name of Madhurathaka II.

There is every indication Uttama was religious and upstanding. An ardent Shiva devotee (as seen by inscriptions in Konnerirajapuram aka Thirunallam or in Kanchipuram), it was Uttama, under the guidance of his mother, who codified the temple patterns, epigraphy, art, sculpture, and the keeping of administrative records.

Chola army and campaigns[edit]

Not much is known about the military conquests of Uttama but by his time most of Thondaimandalam had been recovered from the Rashtrakutas.[10] His dominions included Kanchi and Tiruvannamalai to the north.[11] Many of his inscriptions are found in around Chingleput and North Arcot districts. The Chola army seems to have been in continued battles with the Pandyas and their ally the Sinhalas in Eelam or Sri Lanka. Several Chola coins of Uttama have been found in the Pandya country and in Eelam as proof of Uttama's activities there. We have a copper-plate inscription of him, now at the Government Museum Chennai. It bears the symbol of a seated tiger with two fish beside it and bears the line This is the matchless edict of the King who taught justice to all the Kings in his realm. But the genealogical section of the plates was lost. However we do have the appendix portion at the end.[12]

There are indications he upgraded the army, not just in troop levels but also in quality and organization. It is known through inscriptions that, at least from Uttama Chola's time, warriors were provided with waistcoats of armour.

An important general during his reign was Paluvettaraiyar Maravan Kandanar, who also served under Sundara Chola. His son Kumaran Maravan also served Uttama Chola.[13]

Yet another chief Ambalavan Paluvurnakkan (also known as Vikramasola-Maharajan of Kuvalalam) features during Uttama Chola's rule and continues into Rajaraja I's reign.

Personal life[edit]

Uttama Chola was the son of Sembiyan Mahadevi and Gandaraditya Chola. Sembiyan Mahadevi was the daughter of a Malavarayar chieftain.[14] Uttama Chola had several queens. The names of some of them are known; Orattanan (Urattayana) Sorabbaiyar Tribhuvana-Mahadeviyar (chief queen), Kaduvettigal Nandippottairaiyar (probably a Pallava princess), and Siddhavadavan Suttiyar (related to Vikramasola-Miladudaiyar a prominent feudal king who ruled over Miladu part of present South Arcot District).[15] His father named him Gandan Madhurantakan alias Uttama Chola after his paternal uncles.[16] Unlike some of the other kings of the Chola empire, he took after his mother and was very pious. It was due to his pious nature and support that his mother Sembiyan Madevi was able to continue with her own work of rebuilding temples.[17] He is known to have shown compassion to even his enemies.

As with most ancient Indian kings, Uttama Chola was religiously tolerant. Although a Saivaite (worshipper of Siva), he also donated to temples dedicated for Vishnu especially to the Ullagaladar temple. He also granted large degrees of autonomy to his districts. He brought in best talent from other kingdoms. Kachipeedu (modern Kanchipuram) is also mentioned as one of his prominent cities. He is known to have contributed money, cattle, sheep to temples in modern Kumbakonam, Thirunallam (modern Konnerirajapuram), Thiruvallarai, Thirupatturai, Thirunedugalam, Thiruvisalur, Thirunaraiyur, Thiruvalangadu, Thirukkodika, etc.

Uttama Chola's mother pioneered the process of kalpani—converting brick, mortar, and wooden structures into granite and there is inscriptional evidence to show that he actively funded his mother in this work. She made a conscious effort to copy the older inscriptions before she re-built the temple, for example in a temple in Aavatuturai which was sung by the Moovar, that is the Saivite saints, Appar, Sundarar and Sambandhar there is an older inscription from the time before the temple was rebuilt. At other places like the Choleeswara temple at Kurralam which was sung by Appar and Sundarar, there is an inscription that says it was built by Sembiyan Mahadevi[2] She survived this king and lived on for another 16 years into the reign of Rajaraja I.[18]

Two sculptures of Uttama Chola (Madhuranthaka Devar) and his mother can be found in the Southern wall of the inner Prakara of the Konnerirajapuram (aka Thirunallam) temple near Kumbakonam. The inscription under the sculpture identifying Sembiyan Mahadevi identifies her and the Archaeological Survey of India interprets the bearded man behind her as Gandaraditya Chola.

Death and Succession[edit]

Uttama died c. 985 CE. Although he had at least one son (Madurantaka Gandaraditya), the line of succession passed back to Parantaka II family. Rajaraja Chola I succeeded as the Chola Emperor. Madurantaka served as an official in Rajaraja's court.


The following is an inscription of Uttama Chola from the Umamaheswaraswami temple in Konerirajapuram,

Yet another inscription of him from the Masilamanisvara temple in Tirumullaivayil,


  1. ^ a b Rao Sahib H. Krishna Sastri (1987). South Indian Inscriptions, Volume III, Miscellaneous inscriptions from the Tamil Country. The Director General, Archaeological Survey On India, Janpath, New Delhi. pp. 413–426.
  2. ^ a b Karen Pechilis Prentiss (2000). The Embodiment of Bhakti. Oxford University Press. p. 97.
  3. ^ Sakkottai Krishnaswami Aiyangar (1911). Ancient India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political History of Southern India. Asian Educational Services. p. 103.
  4. ^ Subramanian K R (2002). Origin of Saivism and Its History in the Tamil Land. Asian Educational Services. p. 71.
  5. ^ C. Sivaramamurti (2007). The Great Chola Temples: Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram, Darasuram. Archaeological Survey of India. p. 11.
  6. ^ K. M. Venkataramaiah. A handbook of Tamil Nadu. International School of Dravidian Linguistics, 1996 - History - 544 pages. p. 359.
  7. ^ a b Annals of Oriental Research, Volume 25. University of Madras. 1975. p. 600.
  8. ^ a b Om Prakash. Early Indian land grants and state economy. Excellence Publishers, 1988 - Land grants - 320 pages. p. 175.
  9. ^ South Indian History Congress (1999). Proceedings of the Annual Conference, Volume 18. p. 157.
  10. ^ Upinder Singh. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India, 2008 - Excavations (Archaeology) - 677 pages. p. 559.
  11. ^ Raju Kalidos (1976). History and Culture of the Tamils: From Prehistoric Times to the President's Rule. Vijay Publications. p. 128.
  12. ^ N. Subrahmanian (1993). Social and cultural history of Tamilnad, Volume 1. Ennes. p. 134.
  13. ^ K. K. Kusuman. A Panorama of Indian Culture: Professor A. Sreedhara Menon Felicitation Volume. Mittal Publications, 1990 - Inde - Civilisation - 349 pages. p. 300.
  14. ^ S. R. Balasubrahmanyam. Early Chola Temples: Parantaka I to Rajaraja I, A.D. 907-985. Orient Longman, 1971 - Architecture, Chola - 351 pages. p. 210.
  15. ^ T. V. Mahalingam (1992). A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala States: Thanjavur District. Indian Council of Historical Research. p. 364.
  16. ^ S. R. Balasubrahmanyam. Early Chola Temples: Parantaka I to Rajaraja I, A.D. 907-985. Orient Longman, 1971. p. 158.
  17. ^ K. V. Raman; K. R. Srinivasan (1983). Śrīnidhiḥ: perspectives in Indian archaeology, art, and culture : Shri K.R. Srinivasan festschrift. New Era Publications. p. 364.
  18. ^ V. Rangacharya (1985). A Topographical List of Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency, Volume II, with Notes and References. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. p. 1357.
  19. ^ V. Rangacharya (1985). A Topographical List of Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency, Volume II, with Notes and References. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. p. 1387.
  20. ^ V. Rangacharya (1985). A Topographical List of Inscriptions of the Madras Presidency, Volume I, with Notes and References. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. p. 423.


  • Nilakanta Sastri, K. A. (1935). The CōĻas, University of Madras, Madras (Reprinted 1984).
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K. A. (1955). A History of South India, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002).
Preceded by
Sundara Chola
970–985 CE
Succeeded by
Rajaraja Chola I