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....

Chapter XIII - Rajaraja III (a.d. 1216 to 1246)

Rajaraja III, the son and successor of Kulottunga III, had a long and unhappy rule. Ascending the throne in a.d. 1216 under such dark forebodings on the future of the empire, he was to drift through life like a hapless leaf in a storm. Indignities such as the Cholas as a dynasty had never suffered before were heaped upon him concentratedly during his reign. The empire was disintegrating before his eyes, and he looked on in utter helplessness; the roles were changed between the Cholas and the Pandyas; the Cholas who had gone to the rescue of other kings and kingdoms now sought succour from their western counterparts—the Hoy-salas. Marital involvement with, and consequent sympathy from, the Hoysalas helped Rajaraja III to stem the tide of events that were crowding over one another to drive the Cholas to their doom. After thirty years of ignominious rule, the worst ever in Chola history, he stepped down in a.d. 1246 in favour of Rajendra III, his successor; but it seems probable that he lived on for another decade and more, his latest records dating to as late as a.d. 1260. His inscriptions are found in the districts of Tanjavur, South Arcot, North Arcot, Chingleput, Chittoor, Tiruchy, and to some extent in Salem, Cuddapah and Nellore. The Pandyan kingdom was no longer part of the Chola empire, nor for that matter Vengi. The Kakatiyas of Warangal were at the peak of their glory and their great ruler Ganapati (a.d. 1199—1262) dominated the Krishna-Godavari delta, which became an integral part of the Kakatiya kingdom. The Telugu-Chodas, fortunately friendly and loyal to Rajaraja III and the Cholas generally, functioned as a buffer, allowing the Chola empire to retain its boundaries without any great change since the closing days of Kulottunga III.

After the retaliatory celebration in a.d. 1218 of Virabhishekam and Vijayabhishekam by Maravarman Sundara Pandya I at the Chola capital of Mudikondasolapuram (which as mentioned earlier had become the political and cultural fulcrum of the Chola kingdom in spite of Gangaikondasolapuram continuing as the formal Chola capital) imitative in details of the same celebrations performed in Madurai (in about a.d. 1205) by Kulottunga III, Sundara Pandya gave back the Chola crown and the title of Cholapati to Rajaraja III. These celebrations in the Abhisheka mandapa at Ayirattali might have formally rung the curtain on the Chola kingdom, but for his act of generosity (or was it by expediency or compulsion not quite apparent to us?) in restoring the kingdom to Rajaraja III. Maravarman Sundara Pandya came to be known by the birudasSonadu-konda-Sundara (‘he who took the Cho (Chola) nadu’) and also ‘So-nadu-valangiya Sundara-Pandyan’ (‘he who gave back the Chola kingdom’). Ballala II (a.d. 1173-1220), who was ruling the Hoysala kingdom during these eventful years, had among his queens a Chola Mahadevi, obviously a Chola princess, and hence this marital tie should have brought Ballala rushing to the aid of the Chola in his hour of distress, and, according to one of his inscriptions, his son Vira Narasimha marched to Srirangam in a.d. 1217 at the head of a big army and demonstrated his intentions to stand by his maternal uncle. Ballala came to be called ‘Chola Rajya Pratiskthacharya '(the ‘preserver of the Chola kingdom’) and ‘Pandyagajakesari’ (the ‘Lion to the Pandyan elephant’). The son Vira Narasimha shared the credirfor stemming Pandyan inroads into Chola territory by assuming the titles of ‘Chola-kula-rakshakd’ and ‘Mahatoorvipala Nirmulakah’.

We saw elsewhere that in the Nadu nadu region covered by the North Arcot, Salem and portions of the South Arcot districts, a line of local Chiefs claiming Pallava descent and calling themselves Kadavarayars was emerging into prominence in the reigns of Rajaraja II, Rajadhiraja II and Kulottunga III. They ruled from Kudal, and under Manavalapperumal moved into Senda-mangalam, a new fortified city, which they raised as their capital. Their meteoric rise and the brilliant military operations of Mana-vala’s son Kopperunjinga, a contemporary of Rajaraja III and Rajendra III, further shook the Chola kingdom to its very foundations. Manavala, in spite of his growing might and the waning Chola authority, continued to maintain his feudal relationship to the Chola emperor, but his son, the more ambitious and brilliant warrior, statesman and strategist, gradually asserted his independence and authority. Seeing the growing might of the Kadava (Pallava) prince Kopperunjinga, Hoysala Vira Nara-simha would appear to have realised early in the reign of Rajaraja III that the Kadava from Sendamangalam was going to be a thorn in the Chola side, and even in the second regnal year of Rajaraja III had made successful efforts to contain the Kadava’s growing power and authority. In an inscription dated in a.d. 1218-19, Vira Narasimha calls himself Kanehi-Kancham Kadava-kulantaka and Kadavaraya disapatta. Kanchipuram was perhaps under Hoysala control by about this period. Hoysala inroads into the Pallava domain would appear to have become a matter of frequent occurrence after Kanchi came under their control; sometime after Kanchi was occupied, Tiruvadatturai, a village in the Vriddhachalam taluk, was attacked and sacked and terror struck among the people of this area. Perhaps this was part of the campaign to contain the Kadava chief Kopperunjinga. Affairs nearer the Chola capital were also not auguring well for the future of the Chola dynasty. In the fifth year of Rajaraja III (a.d. 1221—22), there were disturbances even in the heartland of the kingdom, viit., the Tanjavur region. These are described as duritangal (troubles) and kshobham (agitation). They were, perhaps, indicative of the general unrest in the kingdom. Even as early as the seventh regnal year of Rajaraja III (a.d. 1222-23), Kopperunjinga waged war on the Telugu Choda, Viranarasimha Yadavaraya, an ally ofRajaraja III, and worsted him in the battle of Uratti.

In spite of all these disturbing signs of impending disintegration of the empire, Rajaraja III appears to have ventured to pick up a quarrel with Maravafman Sundara Pandya by refusing to pay him the tribute agreed to at Ponnamaravati.

“The Chola no longer considered it proper course to owe allegiance to the ruler who had bestowed the crown on him on a former occasion..... and declined to do the usual honour to the commands (of the Pandya), refused to pay the usual tribute, but instead despatched a large army and an advance guard.”:

Munnarn namakku mudi valangum sevadik-kil
innam valipaduvam ennadu
tusiyum peraniyum

(Maravarman Sundara Pandya’s 12th year (a.d. 1228); Puduk-kottai Inscriptions, No. 277).

This foolish venture ended in disaster. The army was met by the Pandyan king and thrown back with severe casualties, and Maravarman pressed home the victory by marching to the heart of-the Chola country, and triumphantly entered the Chola capital of Mudikondasolapuram. The defeat was total and the Chola position became desperate. The chief queen and the numerous women in the royal harem were made to carry the auspicious water-pot and the ashta-mangalas before the Pandyan ruler to ‘welcome’ him to the Chola capital where he performed a grand Vijayabhishekam.

“..... Valavan mudal devi enru
per pen a vanji mudataya pey valayar
mangalangalettum manikkait talattendit
mudikondasolapura mandapattup pukku-t....
vijayabhishekam panni arul seydu......”

In utter disarray, Rajaraja abandoned the capital and sought to join the Kuntala (Hoysala) ruler who was his ally, but, on the way, the Kadava Chief Kopperunjinga, finding this the most propitious moment to assert his independence, intercepted the Chola king and his followers at Tellaru and routed them in battle (a.d. 1231); the Chola king, his Ministers and Queens and the entire entourage were taken prisoner and kept in confinement in his capital city of ‘Jayantangumangalam’ (Sendamangalam).

The Vayalur inscription reads:

Svasti Sri: Sakalabhuvanachakravartigal
Sri Kopperunjingan Solanai Tallarril (Tellarril) venru sakala parichchirmamum kondu
, Solanai simiyilittu Sonadu konda alagiya Siyan emu...

Hoysala Vira Narasimha, distressed by the miserable fate that had befallen his relative, the Chola king, left his capital Dorasamudra vowing that be would not allow his kalam (trumpet) to be blown until after he had reestablished his name as the defender of the Chola monarchy ('Chola mandala-pratish.On the way, he routed the king of Magara (parts of Salem and South Arcot districts), who was evidently an ally of the Pandya and the Kadava, and encamped at Pachchur, three kilometres north of Srirangam, across the Kollidam. From there he sent an expeditionary force under dandanayakas Appanna and Samudra Gopayya to invade the Kadava territory. They sacked Elleri and Kalliyur-mulai and in rapid marches demonstrated the wrath of the Hoysala, covering Toludagaiyur (held by Solakon, a Chief under Kopperunjinga), worshipped the Lord of Tillai and devastated Tondamanallur, Tiruvadi and Tiruvakkarai, all south of the river Varanavasi (the Gadilam) and east of Sendamangalam and were about to lay siege to the Pallava capital of Sendamangalam. Kopperunjinga sensed danger to his very existence and discreetly released the Chola king and his retinue after negotiating truce with Narasimha. Very interesting (and a wealth of) material on these dramatic events is found in the Gadyakamamrita, the 16th year inscription of Rajaraja III from Tiruvahindrapuram (ARE 142 of 1902), the Vayalur inscription and many other sources. Perhaps the release of the Chola king was brought about at Tiruvahindrapuram (a.d. 1231). But the Kadava was only temporarily subdued; records go to show that the Hoysala king was still campaigning against him for another four years at least, for we hear of Vira Somesvara camping at Mangalam (a village about 16 kilometres south-west of Sendamangalam, in the Vriddhachalam taluk of the South Arcot district) in the course of such a campaign, in a.d. 1236. Vira Narasimha, stationing himself on the northern banks of the Kollidam, campaigned vigorously against the Pandyas. Releasing Rajaraja III was only a part of the objective. The Pandyan upstart Maravarman Sundara Pandya was to be tojd his place. The Pandyan reaction led to the battle of Mahendramangalam (a village in Tiruchy district) and the defeat of Sundara Pandya. The latter agreed to recognise Rajaraja III as the Chola king. Hoysala forces now had the full run of the Pandyan territory. They marched upto Ramesvaram, formally establishing their victory over the Pandyan ruler. But these victories were sublimated into alliances which were cemented possibly by marriages among the three ruling dynasties. A political settlement and not an absorption by conquest was effected. Maravarman Supdara Pandya and Rajaraja III evidently married the daughters of Vira Narasimha II I (and sisters of Vira Somesvara).

Maravarman Sundara Pandya I, the avenger of the Pandyan defeat at Madurai, died in a.d. 1238, after a scintillating rule of twenty-two eventful years. He was succeeded by Maravarman Sundara Pandya II, a colourless personality who gave the Chola king no further trouble. Finding the Pandyan kingdom under a weakling, and the Chola ruler tired of his very existence after these hectic years and hapless surrender to Hoysala patronage, the Kadava chief ‘Maha Rajasimha’ (Kopperunjinga) saw the time propitious to declare his long-nurtured intention of becoming an independent ruler. His inscriptions from a.d. 1243 are recorded with his own regnal years and this independent status he virtually maintained till his death (a.d. 1279), over a span of thirtysix years. Rajaraja III, with the Hoysala Vira Narasimha (II) overseeing the southern states, led a peaceful existence for the remaining years of his rule till a.d. 1246.

He crowned Rajendra III in a.d. 1246 as the Chola king and retired into private life. Thus ended an unhappy chapter in Chola history which had known no weaklings for over three hundred years.

That the Hoysalas were all over the Chola kingdom is attested by a number of inscriptions relating to gifts to temples by military generals of the Hoysala armies stationed in various parts of the Chola region. Bachala devi, daughter of Bhutadeva Nayaka of Dorasamudra, makes a gift of a lamp to Attiyur Alvar of Kanchi-puram in a.d. 1227 (ARE 349 of 1919; 11th year). Ammanna Dandanayaka makes a gift of another lamp in the 14th regnal year (ARE 408 of 1919; a.d. 1230). Another general, Gopayya Dandanayaka, donates a whole village to the same temple in a.d. 1231 (ARE 404 of 1919; 15th year). These gifts pour on for many more years. A pradhani of Vira Somesvara, son and successor of Vira Narasimha (II), makes a gift in the 20th year (a.d. 1236) at Kanchipuram (ARE 369 of 1919). There were other important stations where Hoysala troops (bherundas) were stationed; Tiru-malavadi (Vallala Dandanayaka, a pradhani of Vira Narasimha), Tirugokamam (near Pudukkottai) where Vira Narasimha’s queen Somaladevi’s siruppillaigal (her personal establishment) made a gift, etc. The position in the Pandyan region was not very different. Singanna Dandanayaka invaded the Vedaranyam region of the Chola kingdom presumaby via Kana nadu and wrought death and destruction on the locality. This was sometime prior to a.d. 1241. Ravi deva, a general of Hoysala Vira Somesvara, captured the Kana nadu region, south of Tirugokamam, sometime before a.d. 1245.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: