Rajaraja Chola I is the founder of the later Chola dynasty. He ruled from 985 AD - 1014 AD. He was the second son of Parantaka II. Rajaraja Chola I rule witnessed a spurt in the might of the Cholas as well as exceptional achievements in the cultural fields for which this dynasty is remembered even today. For many of his expeditions Rajaraja was accompanied by his son and heir apparent Rajendra Chola I, who was a brilliant general and who later turned out to be as great a monarch as his father.
Conquests of Rajaraja Chola I
Rajaraja`s first military achievement was the campaign in Kerala
in 994 AD where he is said to have destroyed a fleet in the port of Kandalur. Rajaraja had conquered Kandalur salai which belonged to the Chera king according to the various inscriptions. In his battle against the Pandyas
, he captured the Pandya king Amarabhujanga and the Chola general captured the port of Virinam. Rajaraja assumed the title Mummudi-Chola meaning the Chola king who wears crowns of the Chera, Chola and Pandya, to celebrate this victory. The members of Chidambaram temple conferred the title Rajaraja on him. Before 1008 AD he fought a battle with the Cheras and captured Udagai in the western hill country. Rajaraja`s son Rajendra Chola I was leading the army in this war.
Rajaraja invaded Sri Lanka in 993 AD. According to the inscriptions Rajaraja`s army crossed the ocean by ships and burnt up the Lanka kingdom. Mahinda V was the king of Sinhalas during that time. The city of Polonnaruwa was made the capital of Cholas and it was renamed as Jananathamangalam. He also built a Temple of Lord Shiva
in Pollonaruwa. He wanted to bring the entire island of Srilanka under the control of Chola Empire.
Rajaraja also expanded his empire in the north and northwest. The regions of Gangavadi, Nolambavadi, and Tadigaipadi came under Chola authority during his reign. The invasion of the Ganga territory was a success and the entire region came under the Chola Empire. They could do so as the Rashtrakutas were conquered by the western Chalukyas. Thereafter the Chalukyas became the enemies of Cholas in the northwest region.
Some Chola inscriptions of Rajaraja I describes his battle against Vengi. The king had killed a ruler called Bhima. It can be determined that Vengi was captured apparently to make it a military base of the Cholas. Frequently expeditions were to Orissa and western Deccan from Vengi. The kingdom of Kalinga was attacked subsequently to the capture of Vengi. Rajaraja`s last naval conquest was that of Maldives.
His empire included the whole of South India up to the River Tungabhadra
, the Maldives, and some parts of Ceylon; the Andhradesa was in feudatory alliance with him. His titles like Mummadi Chola; Cholamartanda; Jayangonda; Pandyakulasani; Keralantaka; Singlantaka and Telingakulakala reflect his achievements.
Rajaraja Chola I as Patron of Art And Culture
Thanjavur Brihidishvara Temple was the huge Shiva temple at Tanjore constructed by Rajaraja, originally named Rajarajeshwram after him, but now referred to as the Brihidishvara temple. The inscriptions of this temple throw light on Chola history and the numerous benefactions made by this king. Detailed facts about the temple-servants, including dancers and musicians who were attached to this temple are mentioned in these records. Even numerous officers who served the kingdom like the commander-in-chief, Senapati Sri Krishna Raman who constructed the enclosure of this temple and Senapati Kuravan Ulagalandan who was a revenue officer in charge of revenue survey have also had a mention. Rajaraja built numerous other temples across his empire including some in Sri Lanka. In addition to this he donated expensive gifts to the temples and also arranged for the proper administration of these institutions.
A very great devotee of Lord Shiva, Rajaraja`s favourite deity was Nataraja at Chidambaram and he bore the title Siva-Pada-Shekhara or `one whose head bears the feet of Siva`. His policy of religious tolerance is seen from the fact that he permitted Sri Mara-vijayottunga Varman the ruler of Sri Vijaya to build a Buddhist vihara at Nagapattinam and also endowed a village to this Buddhist institution for its upkeep.
Rajaraja was one of the greatest monarchs of South India. He was a famous conqueror, an able administrator, empire-builder, a religious and tolerant man, a patron of art and literature. He expanded his empire enormously and also saw to it that he conquered territory was properly managed. He begun concept of land survey in 1000 AD, strengthened the majestic administration and encouraged local self-government throughout his control. Rajendra I, son of Rajaraja and his queen Vanavan Mahadevi, and succeeded him to the Chola throne. He ruled with his father for two full years from 1012-1014 A.D. and proved himself to be as great as his father when he had become the king thereafter.