Middle Chola Temples

by S. R. Balasubrahmanyam | 1975 | 141,178 words

This volume of Chola Temples covers Rajaraja I to Kulottunga I in the timeframe A.D. 985-1070. 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....

Vira Rajendra, also known as Vira Chola, ascended the throne in a.d. 1062-63 in succession to his brother Rajendra deva II, since the latter’s son Raja Mahendra had pre-deceased his father. His natal star was Aslesha (Ayilyam). It appears that the Western Chalukyas had become an obsession with the Cholas and it is a strange fact of history that all the three sons of Rajendra I were preoccupied most of the time in containing this powerful enemy; the death of Rajadhiraja I in batde and the bitter memory of Rajendradeva II having had to crown himself on the battle-field of Koppam would seem to have haunted the Cholas for years. Hardly had Vira Rajendra been on the throne when the Western Chalukya Somesvara I challenged his authority, and there were as many as five bitter engagements between them (“ahavamallanaiaiymmadi ven-kandu”—SII, VII, 887). In the first engagement, which occurred immediately after his coronation, Vira Rajendra defeated Vikramaditya, the younger son of Somesvara I and drove him across the Tungabhadra. The second engagement was brought about by an attempt of the Western Chalukyas to overrun the Eastern Chalukya territory of Vengi; coming to know that a large army of the Western Chalukyas under the command of Mahadandanayaka Chamundarayan, the Viceroy at Vanavasi, had been despatched with the above purpose, Vira Rajendra intercepted him in Vengi nadu and saved Vengi for the Eastern Chalukyas, killing Chamundaraya in the process. The third battle fought at Kudal Sangamam was a real trial of strength (a.d. 1064), but the Chalukyas were again routed. The fourth engagement took place on the banks of the Tungabhadra (possibly also at Kudal Sangamam) in a.d. 1066. Again, the Chalukyan army was badly mauled, and seven Chalukyan Generals and their allies, the kings of the Gangas, the Nolambas, the Kadavas and the Vaidumbas, all suffered decapitation. This disgraceful defeat infuriated Somesvara I to such an extent that he threw a written challenge to Vira Rajendra to engage him in battle again at the same place on a specified date, adding that “whoever did not come to the appointed field through fear should thereafter be no king but an outcaste”. Vira Rajendra appears to have jumped at this challenge and marched for the Tungabhadra banks and set up camp there one month ahead of the scheduled date, at Kandai (Karandai?) near Kudal (-Sanga-mam) and waited for the enemy. For reasons not clear, the enemy army did not turn up at all on the appointed date. (One version is that Somesvara I became critically ill, having been suddenly afflicted by an incurable disease, and met his death through a “ceremonial drowning” in the river Tungabhadra). After waiting in vain for a few more days, Vira Rajendra returned home via Vengi, subduing on the way the Rattaipadi region, putting to flight the local Chalukyan Chieftains Devanatha, Sitti and Kesi, setting fire to towns and erecting a pillar of victory on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Before leaving the Tungabhadra region, however, he threw a challenge to the Western Chalukyas, stating that he was returning home after clearing Vengi nadu of their overlordship and challenging them to restore it if they could. The Western Chalukya generals, Jananatha, Rajamayan and Tipparaja intercepted the Chola army on the banks of the Krishna at Vijayavada, but were defeated and “driven into the forest”. Vira Rajendra crowned the Eastern Chalukya Vijayaditya (VII), who had sought his protection, as the king of Vengi and after crossing the Godavari into Kalinga and reaching as far as Mahendragiri returned home victorious.

Before adverting to his other wars and conquests, it may be well to narrate the further developments in the Chola-Western Chalukya relations. After some continued bitterness and wars, a major turn for the better took place in the form of a matrimonial alliance between the two royal families. With the death of Somesvara I in a.d. 1068, his son Somesvara II ascended the Western Chalukya throne, but soon fell into evil courses; his brother Vikramaditya quarrelled with him and left Kalyani (the capital); Vikramaditya was supported by the Kadamba ruler Jayakesi and his own younger brother Jayasimha. Jayakesi offered his good offices to bring about a rapprochement between the Cholas and Prince Vikramaditya, leading to the intervention of Vira Rajendra on his behalf; a lightning campaign into the southern part of the Western Chalukya country followed.

The inscriptions of Somesvara II claim that Vira Rajendra suffered utter defeat at Gutti (in modern Anantapur district, A.P.), while the latter’s inscriptions claim that he destroyed Kampili(nagara), laid siege to Gutti, and set up a pillar of victory at Karadikkal, and that he drove Somesvara II out of the region of Irattapadi and the “land of seven and a half lakhs” and bestowed the Kannada country on Vikramaditya (SII, III, 83 and 84).

Somesvara II had to part with that part of the empire, forcibly taken by Vikramaditya. Even this turned out to be a short-lived arrangement, Vikramaditya becoming the undisputed ruler of the whole kingdom after driving out Somesvara II from Kalyani. Capping all these diplomatic and maritial moves, Vira Rajendra gave his daughter in marriage to Vikramaditya and this brought peace to the borders between their kingdoms which had seen some of the bloodiest wars of South Indian history.

We may now turn to his other exploits. In his fifth regnal year (El, XXI, 38), King Vijayabahu ruling over the southeastern part of the island of Sri Lanka known as Rohana—the only portion of the island not yet brought under Chola rule—tried to seize the rest of the island; this threat was met promptly by Vira Rajendra, who compelled Vijayabahu, with the help of an overwhelming force, to take to the forest. This was the last of the Chola victories in the island; Vijayabahu lay low biding his time, which was soon to come; the disturbed period following the death of Adhi Rajendra after a few years, led to the Cholas being thrown out of the island altogether.

We gather from a record of the 7th year (175 of 1894; 266 of 1901; SII, III, 84) that the ruler of Kedah sought succour from the Chola ruler, presumably having been driven out of his kingdom of Sri Vijaya by his enemies. In a.d. 1068, Vira Rajendra had his kingdom restored to him. The prasasti says of this episode: “tan-kalaladainda mannavarkku Kadaram erindu kodut-taruli” (SII, V, 468; El, XXV, p. 263).

Vira Rajendra’s prasastis—particularly the longer ones—begin with “tiruvalar tiral puyattu”;another opening, used in shorter prasastis, is “viramey tunaiyagavum thyagamey aniyagavum”.

He was known by many names, among which are: Sakala-bhuvanasraya, Medini-vallabha, Maharajadhiraja, Ahavamalla-kula-kala, Vira Chola, Rajasraya, Karikala, Rajarajendra, Vallabha-vallabha and Pandya-kulantaka.

The preoccupation with the Chalukyan wars did not in any way interfere with the smooth running of the administration of the empire, its principalities and the local self-governing units. His Kanyakumari inscription claims that Vira Rajendra donated a ruby for the crown, known as trailokyasara, to adorn Nataraja, the Lord of Chidambaram; the same inscription also mentions that he granted brahmadeya lands to as many as 40,000 Vedic scholars scattered over the Chola, Pandya, Tondai, Ganga and Kulutha provinces of the empire. From another inscription (El, XXI, 38, line 7), we learn that Vira Rajendra ruled his empire from a throne known by the name of “Rajendra Chola Mavali Vanarayan” set up in the royal palace known as “Chola-Keralan Maligai” at Gangapuri.

From an inscription of the fifth regnal year of Vira Rajendra in the Venkatesa Perumal temple at Tirumukkudal situated at the tri-junction of the rivers Palar, Vegavati and Cheyyar, we learn of the existence of a Vedic college with an attached hostel and a hospital [atular-salai). This inscription, which is perhaps the longest single document in our recorded history, refers to gifts for the maintenance of these institutions and also for the provision of temple-services including food-offerings, celebration of festivals, feeding of pilgrims going to Tirupati, the recitation of the Tiruvoymoli, and the repair and maintenance of the temple (pudukkuppuram).

The Vedic college provided for the teaching of the Rig and Tajur vedas, Rupavatara, and certain agamas and tantras. The hostel catered for sixty students daily. These benefactions are fully dealt with in the section on the Venkatesa Perumal temple at Tirumukkudal in the next chapter.

One of the royal executives by name Rajendra Muvendavelan built of stone a shrine for Padambakka Nathar at Tiruvorriyur and endowed it with a flower garden known by the name of Vira Rajendran Tiru Nandavanam.

Another of the royal officers, Sivalokan, son of Tiruvenkattu Nangai, endowed liberally the temple of Tiruvenkattup-Peruman for the provision of milk and honey cbhisheka (ceremonial bath) and for feeding sivayogins on all days when Aslesha, Vira Rajendra’s natal star, was in the ascendant. He also endowed a stone pitham for the deity in the Karanai-Vitankar shrine in the Adipurisvara temple at Tiruvorriyur and named it “Vira Rajendran”.

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