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 XV - Rajendra III (A.D. 1246 to 1279/80)

Crown Prince Rajendra was of a noble mould, a proper scion of the Chola stock, and given somewhat more conducive circumstances might have restored the Chola dynasty to its traditional greatness and glory, but he came when all the dykes against misfortune had broken and ruin came flooding down the Kaveri. Even prior to a.d. 1246 when he became the (co-ruler) king, Rajendra started in earnest to mend matters. His task was considerably facilitated by the weakened Pandyan hold over Madurai. He set himself the task of avenging the humiliation of two successful Pandyan invasions of the Chola capital and apparently succeeded in wresting the Pandyan Crown from Maravarman Sundara Pandya II (sometime around a.d. 1238-39).

The prasasti of Rajendra says that he enabled Rajaraja III to wear two crowns (the Chola and the Pandya) for three years:

Iru mudigalai munru andugal Irasarasanai sudum padi seyda

A 15th year record of Rajendra III from Tripurantakam refers to this in the following terms:

Iru var Pandiyar mudittalai kondarul

Rajendra’s initial successes led to a shift in Hoysala strategy; the latter now switched their support to the weakling Pandya prince. The capture and occupation of Kana nadu and the sacking of Vedaranyam between a.d. 1240 and 1245 were in pursuance of the new strategy of keeping the balance between the two southern kingdoms so that Hoysala hold over the peninsula was not impaired.

The Telugu Chodas ruling from Pottapi and Nellore, faithful allies of the Cholas, felt that their fortunes were interlinked with the fate of the Cholas and so Gandagopala (Tikka Nirupana alias Madhurantaka Pottapi Chola Betarasa Allun Tirukkalat-tideva, son of Madhurantaka Pottapi Chola Nallasiddha alias Manumasiddha) declared his solidarity with the Cholas by capturing Kanchi from the Hoysalas in a.d. 1234; in this battle for Kanchi, Gandagopala claims to have killed the Hoysala king Vira Narasimha (from a record of the 23rd year of Rajaraja III). Tikka (who could be assigned the period a.d. 1230 to 1250) rapidly established his authority over a vast area in the present-day Nellore, Chittoor, Cuddapah, North Arcot, Chingleput and Salem districts. He fought against many mandalikas and brought under his sway the Kanchipuram region, the Chedimandalam and even claims to have suppressed Kadupatti (Kopperunjinga). The Hoysalas were kept at bay and their ruler Somesvara left him to rule in peace, confining his attention to other parts of the Chola and Pandya kingdoms. Tikka helped in restoring the fallen pride of the Chola family. We find Rajendra III, even as early as a.d. 1240, six years prior to his formal accession to the throne, actively campaigning far and near to piece together the broken kingdom. In this effort, the Telugu Chodas were a great and abiding ally; Tikka even assumed the title of Cholasthapanacharya. The Hoysalas made repeated efforts to break up the Telugu Choda hold over the Tondaimandalam region,, but with no notable success.

Narasimha’s son Vira Somesvara attacked Kanchi in a.d. 1246. We do not know the results of this second battle for Kanchi. Whoever won and ruled here had however a short lease. Tikka alias Gandagopala perhaps was succeeded by his elder son, also called Gandagopala, sometime in a.d. 1250. But shortly thereafter, in a.d. 1257-58, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya, the new and powerful Pandyan ruler, attacked Kanchi and captured it. It is claimed by him that Gandagopala was despatched to Heaven (Gandagopalanai vinmlagir pokkiya pin). Perhaps there is truth in this claim because we are aware that Tikkan (i.e., Tikka Nirupana) had two sons and that the younger son became Manumasiddhi II—who later on became the patron of Tikkanna Somayaji, the author of the Telugu composition ‘NirvachanottaraRamayana\ This Manma-siddhi II may be Vijaya Gandagopala.

That, right through the fluctuating fortunes of the Gholas, the Telugu Chodas owed allegiance to Rajaraja III is clear from records of Kanchipuram that occur till a.d. 1245; after that date, however, there is a total absence of Chola records or reference to Chola regnal years. We may presume that the Chola hold over Kanchi was lost around this time (a.d. 1245) and it was never regained. We may say with some degree of certainty that, between a.d. 1243 and 1246, the Chola kingdom had disintegrated to a point, where Chedimandalam, Nadu nadu, Tondaimandalam, Pandi Nadu and even portions of the present-day South Arcot and Pudukkottai districts had ceased to acknowledge Chola overlordship; and the Chola kingdom remained confined to the Kaveri delta.

Rajendra Ill’s valiant struggle deserves praise. His birudas were not mere vainglorious titles. He was called Jagadekaviran—the ‘one hero of the world’, Khadgaviran, Manukulattai Uyarttiyavan, Raja Paramesvaran, Raja Paramamahesvaran, Rajanarayanan, Cholakulattu erpatta paribhavattai nivarttitta Vikkiraman, Eka-dhiran and by such other names.

The establishment of a temporary Chola hold over the Pandyas after the victory of Rajendra III over Maravarman Sundara Pandya II was followed by his campaign against the Sambuvarayas, ruling in the Tindivanam, Villupuram and North Arcot regions, who called themselves the Vira Rakshasas—after which he assumed the title of ‘Rama who conquered the Vira Rakshasas of Uttara Lanka’ (Mavilangai near Tindivanam).

The conflict between the Hoysalas and the Cholas wpuld appear to have gone on for a while, Rajendra claiming victory over Vita Somesvara and the latter claiming victory over Rajendra, each claiming that the other fell at his feet and sought succour. Kopperunjinga, however, seems to have had the run of the entire region between the Kollidam (in the south) and die Palar (in the north). He would appear to have been left to rule his domain uninterrupted both by the Cholas and by the Hoysalas, for quite some time.

In a.d. 1253, the Hoysalas made another big bid to reduce the Kadava prince to his earlier feudal state, but Kopperunjinga was too powerful to be suppressed. In that year, he engaged the Hoysala troops in battle at Perumbalur and captured their Dandanayakas Kesava, Harihara and Yatipati Deva, and their women and treasures (pendir b(h)andaramum), and as an expiation for this act bestowed upon the Lord of.Tirumudukunram temple at Vriddhachalam a forehead plate (tirup-pattam) named ‘Avani-alap-pirandan’ after his own biruda (ARE 73 of 1918). The Hoysalas never again bothered the Kadava chief.

Meantime, what the future was to prove the greatest star in the Pandyan firmament, Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I, ascended the Madurai throne in a.d. 1251. He was the greatest among the Later Pandyas and built up an unprecedented empire in a short time. Within seven years of his accession, he set out at the head of a huge army on a digvijaya campaign. He defeated the Cheras, annexed the Malai nadu, captured Senni and invested Kannanur Koppam, the southern capital of the Hoysalas, and drove them to the Mysore plateau. A renewed attempt on the part of Somesvara to recapture lost power over Koppam resulted in defeat and death at the hands of the Pandyan king. Vira Rama-natha succeeded to the gadi of Koppam. This campaign evidently lasted more than two years. His prasasti describes in glowing terms the great victories Sundara Pandya won wherever he went, subduing the Sri Lanka king, defeating the Pallava Kopperunjinga and compelling him to pay tribute after capturing his elephants and gold and giving back his kingdom to him; then, according to the prasasti, he proceeded to Tillai Ambalam (Chidambaram) and paid homage to Lord Nataraja, then marched to Uraiyur (Koli-ma-nagar) and performed the tulabkara ceremony at die feet of the Lord of Srirangam, where he ceremonially ascended the throne in the temple and rounded off and crowned the first phase of his digvijaya with homage to the Lord there. It was in this campaign that he defeated and killed the Telugu Choda king Gandagopala (a.d. 1258-60) and ‘sent him to Heaven’, as we saw earlier. Thus the Telugu Chodas became subordinate Chiefs of the Pandyas. He drove out the Kakatiyas from the Nellore region and performed a virabhishekam at Nellore, the Telugu Choda capital. In a.d. 1262, Sundara Pandya waged war with the Kakatiyas, and in this campaign he evidently had the support of Kopperunjinga, who fought with and for him. We find the Pallava chiefs inscriptions at Draksharama dated in 1184 (—a.d. 1262), referring to his gifts to Bhimanatha; from these inscriptions we find that for a while he allied himself with the Kakatiya king, seeking his help to fight the rising Pandyan might.

Soon after a.d. 1262, he ceased to send his usual tribute to the Madurai throne, and in a.d. 1267 the Pandya king despatched a big army under the co-ruler Jatavarman Vira Pandya II, who defeated Kopperunjinga again and then proceeded to Tillai Ambalam, where, in the Hundred-pillared Hall, he celebrated virabhishekam and vijayabhishekam:

(“kochchadaya-panmarana tri-bhuvana-chakravartigal....... porp-Puliyur virrirundu.... virabhishekamum vijayabhishekamamum panniyaruliya Vira Pandiya”: kottai State Inscriptions—370/192/1914).

The Hundred-pillared Hall at Chidambaram, which was built by Naralokavira and bore the name of ‘(Im-mandapam) Akalankan’ (Akalankan tiru-mandapam) was re-christened after Vira Pandya, as attested by a few pillars which still bear the inscription ‘Svasti Sri Virapandiyan tirumandapam’. Jatavarman Sundara Pandya was succeeded by Maravarman Kulasekhara in a.d. 1268. He was an equally great warrior and a worthy successor of Sundara. He conquered Malai nadu, Iru Kongu, Ilam, and Tondaimandalam and assumed the title of ‘kondaruliya Kulasekharadevan’. Thus in the face of the rising tide of Pandyan power, Hoysala Vira Ramanatha and Rajendra III found it expedient to forget their differences and rule over whatever territory was left to them to control, under the overall vigil of the Pandyas. We have evidence of this renewed close link from two records from Tiruchchorrutturai (ARE 207 and 208 of 1931). From these we find incidentally that Vira Ramanatha’s 10th and 15th years correspond to Rajendra’s 20th and 25th years respectively. But even this alliance was of no avail against the Pandyan giants Sundara Pandya and Kulasekhara.

We saw earlier in this chapter that, between a.d. 1243 and 1246, Kanchi was wrested from the Cholas. But for two stray records, one from Nandalur dated in a.d. 1259, and another from Tripurantakam dated in a.d. 1261, one could say that soon after the fall of Kanchi, the Chola kingdom shrank back to the traditional narrow limits of the Kaveri delta. But, after a.d. 1261, no inscriptions in the name of Rajendra III are found outside the traditional Chola country.

The latest regnal year of Rajendra’s inscriptions is his,33rd | year, corresponding to a.d. 1279. We may conclude that the last of the Cholas disappeared from the stage of history in that year. We hear of them no more.

The Cholas reigned for over 430 years, a glorious succession of rulers, giants of their time and great warriors. Like all institutions human, the Chola empire too had to have an end. But the Cholas have left behind for posterity a tradition and a tale that any nation can be proud of. Their temples and Gods, their art and culture will live for ever.

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