The Great Raja Raja Cholan

This post is part of the Tamil Heritage Month Initiative. Tamil Heritage Month began in 2010 and seeks to celebrate Tamil heritage, culture, and history. Throughout this month and January, we will be providing you with educational material and poetry such as this that seeks to help us celebrate and understand our culture, roots and heritage.

Written By: Kayalvizhi J.

Rajaraja Cholan was one of the greatest kings of the Chola Empire who ruled between 985 CE and 1014 CE. Rajaraja Cholan and his son, Rajendra Cholan have been credited with the expansion of the Chola Empire by virtue of winning land through military battles against the Sinhala and Pandaya armies. His strength, valour and power has been celebrated in Tamil literature, movies and songs. Some of his greatest achievements, the building of the Raajarajeswaram in Thanjavur, still remain as one of the most amazing architectural achievements to date. The Raajarajeswaram in Thanjavur is now regarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The construction of the temple was completed on the 27th day of the 25th year of Rajaraja Cholan’s reign.

Rajaraja Cholan was named Arulmozhi Varman at birth. His name became Rajaraja Cholan (Great King) with the victories he won in battle. He was the third son of Parantaka Sundara Cholan and Vanavan Mahadevi. Rajaraja His elder brother, Aditya II was assassinated, although the circumstances surrounding that are unclear. According to inscriptions on the Thanjavur Temple,  his only known son is Rajendra Cholan.

Brihadeeswara Temple built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 A.D.

Raajarajeswaram Temple built by Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 A.D.

Rajaraja Cholan was not one who desired the throne. The history of the Chola Empire has been recorded on gold and copper plate inscriptions. One inscription from Thiruvalangadu reads, “…Though his subjects…entreated Arulmozhi Varman, he…did not desire the kingdom for himself even inwardly as long as his paternal uncle coveted[it]…”.

A lot of what we know today, we have read or heard about – but many of it comes from records he left himself. Rajaraja Cholan was a King who understood the value of a recorded history and brought about standardized inscriptions. He recorded all of his military achievements and important events in gold, copper and stone inscriptions. He is credited as the first king of South Asia to do so. Even the past Pallava, Pandhya and Chola dynasties failed to leave a record of their military achievements in stone. His successors have all followed suit in leaving behind a recorded history of their military achievements.

Rajaraja Cholan was also instrumental in retaining past historical information and the records of his predecessors. An inscription found at Tirumalavadi notes that Raja Raja Cholan ordered the inscriptions from central shrine in the Vaidyanatha Temple should be recorded in a book and re-inscribed after it was being rebuilt. Rajaraja Cholan also issued that all donations and grants made to the Thanjavur Temple, a temple build during his reign, be engraved in the stone.

Rajaraja Cholan Status  ManimandapamRajaraja Cholan was a King tolerant to the religious practices of others – although he was a follower of Lord Siva, he has constructed Vishu Temples, the Buddhisht Chaudamani Vihara. His sister, Kundavi, built a Jaina Temple, the Kundavi Devi Jinalaya. His sister Kundavi was regarded highly among him, and Rajaraja Cholan had much admiration for her. She was married to a Bana Price, Vallavaraiyan Vandiyadevan.

Rajaraja Cholan is also widely regarded for his administrative practices. He brought into a system of audit and control that was governed by village assemblies and public bodies. Through his policies, administration and accountability were brought about. His organization also carried on to creating one of the most powerful standing armies and navy. His son, Rajendra Cholan was named supreme commander of the northern and northwestern dominions of the Chola Empire.

Rajaraja Cholan engaged in many conquests, some of his last being his naval conquests in the sea, Maldives and neighbouring regions. The influence of Tamil dominance can still be seen in some of the islands today. For examples, some of the islands in Indonesia, which were once conquered by Rajaraja Cholan have Tamil names: Aru, Natuna=middle, Banda=Pandyan, Pahlawan=Pallavan, Zulu=Chola,

Rajaraja Cholan was a widely respected and regarded King by his subjects. His valour, power and expansion of the Chola Empire brought him much admiration. He has been referred to by other names including Abayakulasekarar (one who has a lot of groups who have surrendered before him), Azhagu Cholar (the most handsome Chola King), Ravikulamanikam (the King like a Ruby), Sanda Parakramar (The King with the power of Wind), Nigarili Cholar (The Chola King without comparable Kings), Panditha Cholar (the Chola King who is complete with knowledge) and Jayamkonda Cholar (The King who is always victorious).

Rajaraja Cholan continues to be a person of interest to Tamils, he has been the subject of many books and dramas. Including movie,  Rajaraja Cholan by Shivaji Ganesan, Kalki’s literary masterpiece, Ponniyin Selvan with Arulmozhi Varman as the protagonist, Sujatha’s Kandalur Vasantha Kumaran Kathai, Seshadri’s Raja Kesari, and many more. 


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