Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Rajaraja Chalukya

Bhavaraju V. Krishna Rao

BY BHAVARAJU V. KRISHNA RAO, M. A., B. L.

In the whole range of the history of the Andhras, which extends a period of more than two thousand years, there is no king whose name is more honoured and loved than that of Rajaraja Chalukya. His personal name was Rajaraja, and the appellation “Narendra” was added to it as an honorofic. His “abhishekanama”, or the name that he assumed at the time of the coronation, was the traditional Vishnuvardhana, and his imperial epithet was “Sarvalokasraya”, “the refuge of all mankind.” Rajaraja was called after his maternal grandfather, Rajaraja or Rajaraja Mummadichola, (A. D. 985–1011), the Chola King of Tanjore (Tanjavur). Rajaraja Narendra belonged to the Eastern Chalukya dynasty of Vengi or Andhra, which held sway for five long centuries, from the beginning of the seventh to the end of the eleventh century. The Eastern Chalukyas were a powerful Kshatriya clan, who traced their descent from the Moon and Atri from Bharata and the Pandavas. They belonged to the Manavyasa “gotra” like the Kadambas.

According to the contemporary account of the “Andhra Mahabharata,” Rajaraja was a handsome man of good stature and powerful build. He was a valiant soldier and a man of letters who had early in life mastered the Veda, Purana, Itihasa, Nataka, Kavya and Alankara as well as all the Dharma-Sastras. And he was a poet too. He gathered round him an assembly of great poets of the country, poets in Sanskrit, Prakrit and in all the “desa-bhashas,” or languages of the country. Among those that adorned his court were the renowned poets Betana-bhatta, Nanniya-bhatta, Narayana-bhatta or Nanni Narayana, Muttay-bhatta and Narayanakavi. Rajaraja’s court was a seat of learning and culture; his famous capital, Rajamahendrapura, became the centre of a well-known school of poetics, the Vengi school ar Vengi sampradaya as it was called in the Dakshinapatha. Rajaraja is remembered even to this date as the promoter of learning and culture, as a patron of poets, particularly of Nanniya bhatta, the author of the first known “maha-kavya” extant in Tenugu. Rajaraja Narendrawas a contemporary of that renowned patron of Sanskrit poets, King Bhojadeva of Dhara or Malwa. What Rajaraja did for the Tenugu language and literature, Bhoja did for Sanskrit.

Rajaraja’s reign was a long one; it began, as it ended, in a period of trouble. His reign was not uneventful; nor was it a peaceful period. Rajaraja was not an ease-loving faint-hearted prince who lived and died as a protege of his Chola kinsmen, as it is gratuitously assumed. His father Vimaladitya had given up his faith in Vedic Brahmanism and devotion to Mahesvara-Siva. Sometime towards the close of his reign (1011-1019 A. D.) he embraced Jainism and turned a sravaka. According to the political traditions of Vengi, the Eastern Chalukya King was to be a follower of Brahmanism. He was, therefore, specially hailed at the time of coronation as the “parama-brahmanya” and “parama-mahesvara”, meaning the “devout Brahmana’ and “devout worshipper of Mahesvara-Siva.” None who was not a Parama-Brahmanya and Parama-Mahesvara could sit on the throne of Vengi. Vimaladitya, therefore, renounced the throne. The throne of Vengi henceforth became “Tyaga-Simhasana,” ‘the abandoned throne.’ Vimaladitya, however, lived sometime longer. He ceased to be the “de jure” king and the government of the kingdom was carried on by the constitutional device of a regency. Vimaladitya would perhaps have abdicated if his son, the Yuvaraja, had been a grown-up. But Rajaraja was still a young lad. A regency was therefore created with Prince Rajaraja as the titular head. Rajaraja had to be assisted in the administration by his father and his able Chancellor, Vajramatya or Vajjia-preggada.

Rajaraja-Vishnuvardhana’s birth seems to have taken place about 1006 A. D. He would be therefore just thirteen years old at the time of hi8 father’s renouncement of the throne. Vimaladitya died about the beginning or the middle of 1022 A. D., when Rajaraja was just sixteen years old. Shortly after that, Rajaraja crowned himself King, at the express wish of his beloved subjects, according to the contemporary accounts. Both Betana-bhatta and Nanniya refer to the fact and make a significant reference to Rajaraja’s ascending the “Tyaga-Simhasana,” in their respective ‘Sasana-kavyas.’

Vimaladitya’s death gave the rival claimants another signal to launch upon a war of succession. There were several rivals to Rajaraja, but history is silent about them. At any rate, Vijayaditya, younger step-brother of Rajaraja, was not one of the rival claimants. He was still in his early teens, too young to aspire for the crown. There were undoubtedly several princes, scions of the juinior branches of the imperial Chalukyas ruling as feudal lords over small principalities, scattered all over the country. Some of them were petty rulers of small kingdoms around Niravadyapura (Nidadavolu), Pishtapura (Pithapuram), Sarvasiddhi near Yellamanchili and such others. Some of the princes were descendants of rival claimants to the throne since the days of Ammaraja I [92l-927 A. D.], Chalukya Bhima II [934–945 A. D], Ammaraja-Vijayaditya [945–970 A.D.] and Badapa. They had even assumed the imperial epithets ‘Sarvalokasraya’ and ‘Samastabhuvanasraya’ and the traditional names, Vishnuvardhana and Vijayaditya, at the time of their accession to their petty hereditary feudal kingdoms. Rajaraja-Vishnuvardhana was able however to crush his enemies and opponents in a short time and crown himself as the undisputed lord of Vengi. His coronation took place at Rajamahendrapura, on Thursday, 16th August, 1022 A.D.

The reign of Rajaraja Narendra [1012-1061 A D.] was the beginning of the end of the glorious Chalukyan epoch in the history of Andhra. It was more or less a turning point: it witnessed the beginning of the dismemberment of the great kingdom of Vengi, the beginning of the decline of the Eastern Chalukyas. It also witnessed the dawn of a new age and the close of the ancient period. The period of Rajaraja was an age of a great revolution. During that period religion became a mere formality and a farce; it was used as a cloak for practising hideous and loathsome rites to delude the innocent people, with pretensions as truths. Jainism and Non-Vedic Saivism came to be widely followed or preached; they soon began to encourage corrupt and detestable practices which were abhorred by the people in general. The ignorant and the guileless were often misled by powerful self-centred elements among the various religious groups. Society consequently became utterly degenerate, and depraved morals set in. “Dharma” or Vedic “dharma” was openly flouted, and Brahmanical doctrines were ridiculed. This decadent state of things was not peculiar to Andhradesa alone. The whole or the Dakshinapatha became infested with degeneracy in religion, in morals, and confusion in the social orders of the society.

The closing quarter of the tenth century saw many political changes in the Dakshinapatha and the Far south. Some of the old dynasties like the Western Ganges and Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta had disappeared. New powers like the Cholas of the south and Chalukyas of Kuntala or Karnataka in the Deccan had emerged with greater vigour and ambition. The new powers were inspired by a fierce and insatiable lust for conquest and expansion and greed for power and wealth. Consequently, the Cholas and the Chalukyas of Kuntala came to be constantly at war with each other. In the wars of this period which lasted four or five generations, the Chalukyas of Vengi, on account of their nearness of relationship, made common cause with the Cholas of Tanjavur. The Cholas and the Eastern Chalukyas formed themselves into a defensive and offensive alliance against the Western Chalukyas. Rajaraja-Mummadi Chola gave his daughter Kundavamba in marriage to Vimaladitya, the younger brother and heir-apparent of Saktivarman I [999-1011 A. D.] who restored the fortunes of his house in Vengi after an “interregnum” of twenty-seven years. The offspring of the union was Rajaraja Narendra, who married Ammangadevi, the only daughter of Rajendra Chola, surnamed Gangaikondan, the son and successor of Rajaraja-Mummadi Chola. The marriage took place a few years after Rajaraja had established himself firmly on the throne. Rajaraja Narendra’s son was Rajendra Choda, who afterwards ascended the throne of the Cholas under the appellation Kulottunga Chola Deva I. In his own turn Rajendra Choda married Mudhurantaki, a daughter of his maternal uncle Rajendra Deva. Thus for three successive generations the Chalukyas of Vengi married Chola princess, and in the end the last of them supplanted the Cholas in the south, having identified himself with the latter.

Naturally, therefore, the Western Chalukyas of Karnataka hated their cousins of Vengi, who were formidably allied to their enemies, the Cholas. Both Ahavamalla-Satyasraya and his successor Jagadekamalla-Jayasimha, having been worsted on two occasions, were consequently unable to carry on a protracted war against Vengi during the reign of Vimaladitya. Their reigns were occupied with unceasing wars with the Cholas on the one hand and with their turbulent feudatories and their allies on the other. Jagadekamalla died in 1042 A. D. and was succeeded by his more valiant son Ahavamalla Trailokyamalla Somesvara. Having been unable to draw Rajaraja-Vishnuvardhana into war and attack him in the open field, Somesvara adopted other methods and tactics to insult his adversary and provoke him to open hostility. Accordingly, he conferred upon Sobhanarasa, the foremost among his vassals, the title of ‘Vengipuravaresvara,’ or ‘the lord of Vengi’ and received homage and tribute from him. Ahavamalla continued this practice openly and conferred the later title upon his elder son who afterwards succeeded him under the name Bhulokamalla-Somesvara, and later still upon his youngest son Vishnuvardhana. Vijayaditya. By this covert device, Ahavamalla-Somesvara enjoyed the vainglorions pleasure of calling a powerful opponent his vassal. Though provoked in this fashion, Rajaraja-Vishnuvardhana did not indulge in open hostilities which he loathed very much in the interests of his country and people. At last, Ahavamalla, unable to drag Rajaraja into a protracted war, invaded the Chola kingdom in order to avenge himself for former wrongs, during the last years of Rajendra- deva. That was about the beginning of 1061 A. D. Ahavamalla- Somesvara knew that the lord of Vengi would hasten to the help of his brother-in-law Rajendradeva. He therefore despatched large armies under able commanders to Vengi to intercept and thus prevent Rajaraja from joining the Chola King. About the same time, Ahavamalla induced Vijayaditya to rebel against his step-brother and usurp the throne of Vengi for the second time. Unfortunately for the Andhra country, Ahavamalla Somesvara’s policy was completely successful. Vijayaditya succeeded in capturing the capital through treachery by a “coup d’etat” and placed himself on the throne of Vengi. Rajaraja was away in the south opposing the armies of Kuntala that invaded his kingdom; he was therefore unable to move immediately to the north, to punish his traitor brother. He was between two mortal foes, and he could punish them only one after the other. But that was not to be, for he was overthrown by overwhelming subversive forces. Somewhere in the south or south-west, Rajaraja-Vishnuvardhana fell on the battlefield, fighting the armies of Kuntala about the middle of 1061 A. D. His death under tragic circumstances was unexpected and it was the beginning of the end of a glorious epoch. Rajaraja’s only son Rajendra Choda was not in Vengi to retrieve the position; he was somewhere in the north, in Chakrakuta, fighting his father’s battles against disloyal tributaries. When be returned, it was too late.

The events that led to the composition of the “Andhra Mahabharata” are mentioned in the poem itself. Rajaraja was ever desirous listening to the narration of the story of the immortal Epic; it was almost a passion with him. Rajaraja believed that the “Mahabhrata” proclaimed the eternal dharma, the Manava dharma, the ‘Law of Humanity’ to all mankind. To him, it preached the Vedanta; it revealed the goal of all philosophy and the end of Metaphysics; it contained the essence of alt political science, and above all, it was the “Mahakavya” that was worthily praised by all poets. Rajaraja’s thirst for the “Mahabharata” was not quenched when he read it and heard it only in Sanskrit. And it was not possible for every one to read the Epic in Sanskrit; it should be available to the people in their own language. The King therefore assembled the great poets of his realm in his Court and proposed that Nanniya-bhatta should compose a Mahakavya of the story of the “Mahabharata” of Veda Vyasa, in Tenugu, bringing out its sublime spirit and its sublimer spiritual message, together with its great moral, to the best of his ability. Raja-raja was confident that of all the renowned poets of his Court, Nanniya-bhatta alone was competent to achieve such a great and difficult task. Nanniya-bhatta obeyed the King’s command with some diffidence. He commenced the composition of the poem with the assistance of the celebrated Narayana-bhatta or Nanni Narayana who was his co-pupil at the Gurukula. Strangely enough, Nanni Narayana did not compose a single stanza in the whole poem. But the assistance he rendered is compared to that of Lord Krishna’s aid to the hero Partha on the battlefield of Kurnkshetra. The comparison is significant and pregnant with meaning. Nanniya-bhatta had to seek the approbation of the assembly of poets, of which Rajaraja was the guiding spirit, for the “Mahakavya” he had undertaken to write. It was undoubtedly an uphill task. Like Krishna’s aid to Partha, Nanni Narayana’s assistance was invaluable and in the end it brought undying glory to Nanniya. Nanniya commenced the work of the “Andhra Mahabharata” sometime after 1053 A. D. Though the plan of work was fully conceived at the very outset, Nanniya-bhatta could not complete the poem during his lifetime. He wrote the Adi and Sabha parvans, and died without completing the Aranya parvan. To write the “Mahabharata” as a kavya in Tenugu was a stupendous task; it was inconceivable in that age when Sanskrit held the field to the exclusion of all Indian languages. And the extant work of Nanniya reveals its striking originality and the genius of the poet. The “Andhra Mahabharata” of Nanniya is not a mere translation of the Sanskrit version of Veda Vyasa. To call it a translation, is a travety of truth; it is an original work, a classio by itself according to all canons of criticism.

There appears to be still another reason, yet another circumstance, that inspired Raja raja Narendra to get the “Mahabharata” written in Tenugu. The bloody and devastating wars of the period which his Chola, Chalukyu, Kalachuri and Paramara contempories intermittently waged, would seem to have caused immense grief and misery to Rajaraja. He resembled Yudhishtira who mourned the loss of all his beloved kinsmen and allies on the gruesome battlefield of Kurukshetra. He was like Janamejaya who was smitten with a deep sense of sorrow when he called upon his favourite bard Vaisampayana to narrate to him the story of his ancestors, the Pandavas and Kauravas of the Bharata race. It was a similar feeling that roused Raja-raja and inspired him to listen to the “Mahabharata” in Tenugu. It was the immense unhappiness that plunged the whole country and his own house in deep sorrow that persuaded him to command his poet to compose the “Mahabharata” in Tenugu for his own benefit and for the benefit of his beloved people.

Rajaraja was a great king; his memory is imperishable. And so his great gift of the “Andhra Mahabharata” too is imperishable. “As long as the sun and moon endure,” the name of Rajaraja and that of his poet Nanniya will live. The “Andhra Mahabharata” is their imperishable gift to the Andhras. Though with his death the illustrious Eastern Chalukya dynasty of Vengi came to an end, the great Andhra nation which he loved, inspired and in one sense rejuvenated, still lives. Rajaraja is to be gratefully remembered, for he knit the Andhras into a nation by forging for them a great common culture, a great common heritage.

(By Courtesy of All India Radio, Vijayawada.)

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