Untold History Of Raja Raja Chola I


“Raja Raja” – meant King of the Kings.

Arulmozhi Varman

Raja Raja Chola I was the third child of the King Parantaka Sundara Chola and Vanavan Maha Devi of the Velir Malayaman Dynasty. His real name was Arulmozhi Varman. He was also called as RajaRaja Sivapada Sekhara which translates into the King of Kings who has Lord Shiva’s feet as his crown. His adopted name with which he is known – “Raja Raja” – meant King of the Kings.
Raja Raja Chola was a very loving brother. It is said that to avenge his brother Aditya Karikalan’s death, he fought against Chera Kandalur and won. Remember, he didn’t lose a single battle in his lifetime.

His elder brother Aditya Chola was assassinated in 969 CE and then Uttama Chola was declared as the crown prince. He had no jealousy even if he had, he didn’t show it openly.

Uttama Chola ruled for 15 years and after his death, Raja Raja Chola I was declared as the king unanimously through a democratic process which was followed by the Cholans.

Raja Raja Chola ascended the throne in the year 985 CE and he was assisted by his sister Kundavai Pirattiyar in administration and management of temples.

When Raja Raja Chola I ascended the throne, his father and grandfather had strengthened Cholan Dynasty in South India by then. He made several successful conquests on the neighboring Cheran and Pandyan kingdoms and increased his kingdom’s territories manifold.
After conquering the whole of South India, he adopted a title of “Mummadi Chola”.(After conquering/subjugating the Pandyas and the Cheras, he is called the “Mummudi Cholan” literally, the Suzerain of the 3 kingdoms: Chola, Chera and Pandya.)He then concentrated on Sinhalese dynasty which was ruling Ceylon or present day Sri Lanka. The contemporary king was Mahinda V. He defeated Mahinda V and then captured Anuradhapura, the capital city of Sinhalese Dynasty and occupied the northern part of the Ceylon but southern part remained independent. To commemorate his victory in Ceylon he built a Lord Shiva temple there. His son, Rajendra Chola conquered the entire Ceylon.

Raja Raja Chola conquered many other kingdoms. Kingdoms of Coorg, Pandyas, Gangas, Nolambas, Tadigaipadi etc., are few to mention. The Eastern Chalukyas maintained matrimonial relationship with the Cholans. He even conquered Quilon. His son Rajendra Chola conquered Kalinga and went beyond the Ganges and adopted the tittle Gangaikonda Chola.

Raja Raja Chola sent naval expeditions to the islands of Maldives. With the naval power, he occupied Ceylon and his son occupied some parts of South-east Asia. He even had a standing army.

Raja Raja Chola I changed the face of Cholan administration after he ascended the throne. The princes and landlords who acted independently were turned into local officials. He strengthened local self-government and ordered the officials to conduct land surveys. He sent missions to China to improve trade and economy of the kingdom.

Raja Raja Chola I was a patron of arts. After listening to some short excerpts of Thevaram, he asked to retrieve all the scripts of Thevaram with the help of Nambi and divine intervention.

Raja Raja Chola I was a Saivaite and he did everything possible to spread Hinduism in Ceylon and other parts which were occupied by him. But he was tolerant towards other religions as well. He built many Vishnu temples and allowed to construct Buddhist Chudamani Vihara. His own second daughter followed Buddhism and he never seemed to oppose her.

Though he had 11 consorts, only one conceived and they had 3 kids, two daughters and one son. His eldest daughter was named after his sister Kundavai.

Raja Raja Chola I built the great RajaRajeshwara temple or Brihadweshwara temple in Tanjavur which was his capital city. The temple is very famous and is now one of the UNESCO’s world heritage sites.

The main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva and it was built to show the Cholan power and supremacy. The name Brihadeshwara was given by Marathas but not Cholans.

The large temple courtyard is surrounded by a prakara or wall, and attached to the wall is a pillared cloister that holds murtis of Nagadevtas, and 108 Shivlingas. As one enters the temple complex, the first small gate that one crosses is known as the Maratha gate, built by the Marathas at a later period. The Maratha gate is followed by two Chola era gates with tall gopuras that are crowded with sculptures, while the walls hold beautiful carvings depicting stories from the epics. An empty moat runs around the temple complex.
They called the deity as RajaRajeshwara.

The entire temple is built of granite. They used 1,30,000 tons of granite in making the temple. There are over 100 underground passages in the temple and some of those passages lead directly to the palace of the king. The cap stone of this temple weighs around 80 tons and it is still a mystery that how can people with supposedly so low technology could put such a heavy stone so high! It is said that the cap of the temple is built in such a way that the shadow doesn’t fall on the ground but falls on itself. It is speculated that the huge cap was placed by using manpower and elephants and keep it above the vimana. The vimana is 200 feet high. What’s most surprising is that the place where this temple is built, there is no granite available in a radius of 100 km. There is a statue of Nandi (the Bull), vehicle of Lord Shiva. It is gigantic and is made from a monolithic granite. Sure the craftsmen were really talented to make a block of granite to a magnificent bull’s statue.

The temple was built ages ago but the paintings of this temple will simply mesmerize you. They used natural pigments to make colors and needless to say they used those colors for paintings and that is the reason why even now after a 1000-year period the paintings are still rich and striking.
After all this, no one knows how he died. His death is still a mystery to historians. Like any other great king he doesn’t have a big mausoleum. The mausoleum that is shown now in no way proves that it is his. It is not in Tanjore but in a remote village named Udayalur in Tamil Nadu.

His entire life can be traced out with the help of his inscriptions and that tradition was followed by his son but nothing is written about his death. There is a Lord Siva’s lingam above the grave. There was an inscription related to the king but it didn’t indicate that Udayalur is the real place where he was buried or where he wanted to get buried.

Local folks have a different story to say.

According to some people, the king was killed by a woman who was sent by Mahinda V, Sinhalese ruler of Ceylon. Mahinda V failed to defeat Raja Raja Chola I so he sent a woman who became good friends with the Chola king.

When the king was inspecting the progress of the Brihadeshwara Temple from 8th floor she simply pushed him down and he died.

That is why they say that the temple was not finished properly. That is why his son, Rajendra Chola shifted his capital city from Tanjore to Gangaikonda Cholapuram. That is why Rajendra Chola seized complete Ceylon under his control and kept Mahinda V as a war prisoner till Mahinda V died.

Source : Facebook/Akshay Bhagat

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