Later Chola Temples

by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1979 | 143,852 words

This volume of Chola Temples covers Kulottunga I to Rajendra III in the timeframe A.D. 1070-1280. The Cholas of Southern India left a remarkable stamp in the history of Indian architecture and sculpture. Besides that, the Chola dynasty was a successful ruling dynasty even conquering overseas regions....

Rajadhiraja II was not in the direct line of descent of the Cholas. Interesting if somewhat incomplete information regarding the circumstances leading up to his accession is contained in an inscription found in the temple of Rajarajesvaram built at Pal-lavarayanpettai during Rajaraja II’s days. Finding himself without a son ready to succeed him (tiru abhishekattukku uriya pillaigal inriye irukkirapadiyai parttu), Rajaraja II caused enquiries to be made into the rights of possible successors to the throne according to the prevailing practice of* those days (annalile kariyam vicharanai seydu) and in the end chose Edirili Perumal, son of Neri udai Perumal and a grandson of Vikrama Chola’s, to succeed him temporarily. (See Appendix I to this chapter for other views). After four years of probation, this cousin was anointed co-ruler under the title of Rajadhiraja (in a.d. 1166), such investiture having the approval of the King’s Council (udan kuttam). From a.d. 1166 to a.d. 1172, Rajadhiraja II must have served as coregent.

The closing years of Rajaraja II saw the beginnings of a war of Pandyan succession that, after his death, was fought with fluctuating fortunes and swapping of sides by the Pandyan claimants to the throne, till almost the end of the rule of Rajadhiraja II. The first rude shock which threatened the very existence of the Chola empire came in these days, when the Pandyan claimant Kulasekhara sought the help of the Cholas to fight against the Sri Lanka forces which, at that king’s behest, had taken up the cause of Parakrama Pandya, who was then in occupation of the Madurai throne. This war lasted from a.d. 1169 to 1177, when finally the Sri Lanka forces were driven out of the mainland and their ships destroyed. But it also provided the first fissures in the edifice of the Chola empire which till then had been solid and in fact had seen almost half a century of unparalleled peace (from a.d. 1120 to 1169). We shall see more on this later.

Soon after the death of Rajaraja II, we saw, Pillai Pallavaf rayan alias Tiruchchirrambalam Udaiyan Perumanambi, the trusted lieutenant of Rajaraja II, who played a vital role in the\ preservation of the Chola empire in those troubled days and bore ' the brunt of the Sri Lanka invasion of the mainland and expelled the Simhalese forces after bitter fighting, was evidently worried about the safety of the two children of Rajaraja II aged one and two years, as well as of the dowager queen; and so he had them whisked away from the cantonment at Ayirattali, which virtually functioned as the Chola capital during the reign of Rajaraja II, as seen earlier. Safety from whom? What was the particular interest of Pallavarayan in taking upon himself the onus of securing the safety of the children of Rajaraja II? Who were the persons likely to harm the infant children? These questions will remain sources of speculation and have been speculated upon, but are beyond the scope of this book. It was this Pallavarayan who led the Chola army to its victory in the first phase of the war, which occurred even while Rajaraja II was alive; but Pallavarayan did not long survive Rajaraja II and appears to have died sometime around a.d. 1172.

We noticed that the Pandyan kingdom never really accepted Chola supremacy and was chafing under their domination during the Middle Chola period. However, by a system of appointing (‘Chola-Pandya’) viceroys and stationing substantial troops at various military stations located at strategic places like Kottaru, Rajaraja I and his successors kept down the Pandyan movement for independence; and Kulottunga I had considerable trouble during his early years in keeping a firm hold over this part of the empire; how he had to demonstrate his strength in bloody battles and assert his authority, we have seen in the chapter on Kulottunga I. However, during the closing few years of that ruler, the signal for them to assert their independence was seen in the temporary loss of the Chola hold over Gangavadi and even over Vengi for a short while; and it needed all the energy and diplomacy of Vikrama Chola to re-establish and maintain his hold over these regions. After this, for some decades we hear nothing of the Pandyas till almost the end of the reign of Rajaraja II. However, from the epigraphical material relating to this region and period, it could be said that even though the Pandyan rulers owed allegiance to the Chola overlord, they exercised considerable autonomy and in fact indulged in their own wars and quarrels without reference to the centre and put out their own prasastis, a practice discontinued during the Middle Chola period and even during the days of Kulottunga I.

Three years before the death of Rajaraja II and three years after Rajadhiraja II’s co-regency began, a civil war broke out in Madurai (in a.d. 1169); at that time Parakrama Pandya was occupying the Pandyan throne; finding it difficult to defend the city that was besieged by the army led by Kulasekhara, his rival claimant to the throne, he appealed to the Sri Lanka ruler Para-kramabahu (a.d. 1153-86) to send him assistance to help him thwart the investment; accordingly, Parakramabahu, only too happy to interfere in the affairs of the mainland and resume the old rivalry with the Cholas, sent a big army under a general named Lankapuri. Before, however, the army could reach Madurai, the city had been stormed by Kulasekhara who killed Parakrama Pandya, his queen and children. Parakramabahu advised his commander to continue with the effort, wrest Madurai from Kulasekhara and hand it over to the scions of Parakrama Pandya. Reading the narration of the events of this period given in the Buddhist account, Mahavamsa, in conjunction with the eleborate inscriptions found in the Tamil country on this subject, we can piece the sequence of events together somewhat as follows. The Sri Lanka forces routed the army of the Pandyan prince Kulasekhara; Kulasekhara sought the Chola king’s protection and a large army under the command of Pallavarayan and other generals was Stent to counter the depredations of the Sri Lanka army, with orders that the Pandyan throne should be given to Kulasekhara and that Lankapuri Dandanayaka and other Chiefs commanding the Sri Lanka army should be killed and their heads nailed to the gates of the city of Madurai. We have already referred to the interesting inscription from Arpakkam dated in the fifth year of Rajadhiraja II, which contains the earliest reference to these crucial days and the fighting that was going on; it mentions that the depredations of Lankapuri in Pandi mandalam struck terror even into the minds of the people of Chola desa; worship wis abandoned in the Ramesvaram temple and its treasure plundered^ and a worried father, Edirilisola Sambuvarayan, anxious that th^ Chola army commanded by his son, Pillai Pallavarayan, should' stem the tide of Chola defeat, sought the intercession of Svami devar, a holy man from Dakshina Lata in Gauda desa, who, after performing puja for twenty-eight days{GL_NOTE::} brought divine wrath to bear on the Sri Lanka army; and soon after the puja came the news of Pallavarayan’s success against the Pradhanis of the Simhalese army; their Dandanayakas (commanders) Jayadratha and Lankapuri and the entire army were driven out of the mainland. Kulasekhara thereupon returned to Madurai as the undisputed king. Another inscription dilating on the same theme, found at Pallavarayan pettai, and dated in the eighth regnal year of Rajadhiraja II, says that thus was prevented the conversion of the Pandyan country into a province of Sri Lanka (pandinadu ilanadaagadapadi pariharittu). The story does not end here. Evidently, Para-kramabahu did not accept this defeat and was making warlike preparations for a fresh invasion of the mainland. Having come to know that the Sri Lanka king was mustering a big fleet in Urat-turai, Pulaichcheri, Matottam, Vallikamam, Mattival and other places, Annan Pallavaraiyan alias Palaiyanur-udaiyan Vedavanam Udaiyan Ammaiyappan set up Srivallabha, the nephew (maru-maganar) of the king of Sri Lanka, as a claimant to the Simhalese

throne and put him at the head of a big expeditionary force, which attacked the island and captured and destroyed the ports of Pulaichcheri, Matottam and others, where Parakramabahu was mustering his naval forces for the proposed attack on the mainland; the Chola commander Annan Pallavaraiyan gathered the booty and duly placed it at the feet of Rajadhiraja II.

In recognition of the services rendered by this Chief in the cause of the preservation of the Chola empire and thwarting the designs of the Sri Lanka king on the Pandyan kingdom, a gift of land was made which is reported in the inscription dated in the twelfth year of Rajadhiraja II found in the North Arcot district (ARE 465 of 1905).

But the war did not end here. Parakramabahu, finding the Chola diplomacy of setting up a counter claimant to the Sri Lanka throne in the person of Srivallabha who, assisted by the able Chola general, had gained spectacular successes against the Sri Lanka army, disconcerting, tried to pay the Chola king back in his own coin by suddenly withdrawing his support for Vira Pandya, the scion of Parakrama Pandya, and bestowing it on his erstwhile enemy Kulesekhara; tempted by generous presents and promises, Kulasekhara made a volte face and joined hands with Parakramabahu in attacking the Chola Chiefs in Pandi nadu with a view to driving them out; the Chola ruler instructed Pallavaraiyan to instal Vira Pandya on the Pandyan throne. These were anxious days, and evidently the Cholas were taken by surprise by the unexpected turn of events and the shifting loyalty of Kulasekhara, who, assisted by Parakramabahu’s army, would appear to have made deep inroads into the Chola territory before Annan Pallavaraiyan could gather his forces to roll back the intruding Sri Lanka army and place Vira Pandya on the Madurai throne. We gather that Annan Pallavaraiyan successfully brought this about. This culminating act may have taken place in a.d. 1177. This brings us to almost the beginning of the rule of Kulottunga III, who ascended the throne in a.d. 1178. Thus it would appear that the entire reign of Rajadhiraja II was devoted to the preservation of the integrity of the Chola empire and the worsting of the attempts of Parakramabahu to interfere in the affairs of the mainland—a mission whose success was due mainly to the two Pallavarayan Chiefs. The Chola empire that Kulottunga III inherited from Rajadhiraja II was essentially the same in extent as at the end of the reign of Vikrama Chola. Nandalur, Kalahasti and Nellore contain a number of inscriptions of this period and Nandalur in particular continues to be a centre of considerable religious activity during this period.

Rajadhiraja II celebrated the defeat of the Sri Lanka forces at the hands of his generals by giving himself the surname elf ‘he, who was pleased to take Madurai and Ilam’

Ilamum kondarulina) (ARE 36 of 1906; 731 of 1909). He also called' himself Karikala, as in inscriptions from Chidambaram and Attur. His inscriptions and the prasasti sometimes combined the surnames, calling him Tribhuvanachakravartin alias Maduraiyum Ilamum kondarulina Karikala Choladeva.

We hear of another Chief from around the tenth regnal year of Rajadhiraja II. An expedition seems to have been taken out against Kollimalai (Valappur nadu), which represented the region around modern Namakkal of Salem district, under the command of Virrirundan Seman(dar) alias Pillai Akalanka Nadalvar of Tiruttavatturai (Lalgudi) in Idaiyarrur nadu, a subdivision of Pandikulasani valanadu; Kollimalai nadu is said to be a subdivision of Virasola mandalam of the Chola empire; this Chief enters into a number of agreements with local petty Chiefs, the Malayala nattar of some villages, for various benefactions to the Arappallisvara* temple in Valappur nadu (ARE 496, 499, 500 and 501 of 1929-30). We gather from some inscriptions from Srirangam that three Kaikola Mudalis, Nayan alias Alagiya Manavala Marayan of Tiruvarangam, Araiyan alias Kidarattaraiyan and Ulagan alias Alaganaichchola Marayan

•Incidentally this temple would appear to have been in existence even in the days of Uttama Chola, vide an inscription on the door-jamb (right of entrance) of the central shrine dated in his 16th year which states that Parantakan Madevadigal alias Scmbiyan Madeviyar, the mother of Gandan Madhurantakan alias Uttama Choladeva, deposited 100 kalanjus of gold with the urar of certain specified villages in Kollimalai nadu for meeting the expenses of monthly sankramanas in the temple of Tiruvarappalli Alvar on the Kollimalai) the urar agreeing to pay the monthly interest to the sabha (ARE 503, 504, 505 of 1929-30).

bound themselves to serve this Chief unto death as velaikkarar (ARE 267,268 and 269 of 1929-30).

Rajadhiraja’s prasastis begin with one of three forms: kadal sulnda par magalum (madarum), similar to the prasasti of Rajaraja II; pu mruviya tisai mugatton, occurring from his fifth year records onwards; and kadal sulnda parelum. They do not furnish any information of a historical nature and seem to be purely rhetorical.

We hear of one Narayanan Muvendavelan as the royal Secretary (tiru-mandira-olai) in an inscription dated in his second year, 121st day, and again of one Minavan Muvendavelan as another incumbent of that office (Pallavarayanpettai).

Rajadhiraja II would appear to have ruled for sixteen years and his reign must have ended in a.d. 1182, though the reign of his successor Kulottunga III is dated from a.d. 1178.

Footnotes and references:


According to Sri Bujandar’s version (vide Aruludaich-cholamandalam by N. Sethu-raman, p. 19) the puja (for Kali) was performed at Pattisvaram by Tiruchchirrambalam Udaiyan but according to the Arpakkam inscription, it was the father of Tiruchchirrambalam Udaiyan who performed the (agni) puja at Arpakkam. This point needs clarification (pp. 19- 20).

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