RAJARAJAN EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL ASSOCIATION
Rajarajan Educational Trust
The Big Temple built by the greatest Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola, is that
dynasty's finest contribution to Dravidan temple architecture. If the Big Temple is an
ancient landmark of Thanjavur,
Rajaraja Chola I (Tamil: ராஜ ராஜ ச ாழன்} born Arulmozhi varman), (also
called as Arunmozhi udayar and respectfully as Periya Udayar), popularly known
as Raja Raja the Great, is one of the greatest emperors of the Tamil Chola Empire
who ruled between 985 and 1014 CE. He established the Chola empire by
conquering the kingdoms of southern India expanding the Chola Empire as far as
Sri Lanka in the south, and Kalinga (Orissa) in the northeast. He fought many
battles with the Chalukyas in the north and the Pandyas in the south. By
conquering Vengi, Rajaraja laid the foundations for the Later Chola dynasty. He
invaded Sri Lanka and started a century-long Chola occupation of the island.
A brief introduction to the Later Cholas or the Thanjavur Cholas. Rajaraja
Cholan the Great occupies the foremost place in the history of the later Cholas.
Vijayalaya Cholan(AD 846-871) was the founder of the later Chola dynasty. He
conquered the country from a vassal chief of the pallavas, and established
Thanjavur as the capital of the dynasty. His son and successor Aditya I conquered
the pallavas and the Kongu country; and his son Parantakan I (AD 907-953), under
his leadership, the cholas acquired a dominion which foreshadowed the greater
empire Rajarajan and Kulotungan. Parantakan I won victories over the Banas, the
Gangas, the Pandyas and the King of Ceylon.
The original title of Arunmozhivarman (Rajaraja Cholan) was Rajakesari
Varman or Mummudi-Sola-Deva. He was the second son of the Parantaka Cholan
II alias Sundara Cholan and Vanavan Mahadevi. Rajarajan had an elder sister,
Kundavaiyar and an elder brother, Aditya Karikalan. Rajarajan had a high regard
for his sister, who spent her later life in Tanjore with her younger brother, his first
daughter was named after her. Only one son and three daughters of the King are
known namely; Rajendra Ch olan I, Kundavai, who married the Eastern Chalukya
King Vimaladitya, Mahadevadigal and another whose name is not traceable.
Rajarajan had a number of queens. Lokamahadevi was probably the chief queen,
who built the shrine of Sri Lokamahadesvarar, called Uttara Kailas in the Sri
Panchanadisvara temple at Thiruvaiyaru.
Rajarajan inherited Chola and Kongu kingdoms and the Kanchi region, when
he came to throne; the first comprising Thanjavur and Trichy regions, the second
the Coimbatore region, the third country comprising of South & North Arcots and
Rajarajan began his career by the conquest of the Chera country. He defeated
Chera King Bhaskara Ravivarman, whose fleet he destroyed in the port of
Kandalur. He also seized Pandya Amara Bhujanga and captured the port of
Vilinam. By his campaign against the Singhalees he annexed northern Ceylon,
building a number of stone temple in the Ceylonese capital Polonnaruva, of
which one now stands to Shiva. It was at about the 14th year of his reign (AD
998-999) that most of his triumphs were achieved. He conquered the Gangas of
Mysore(capital at Talakad), the country of Nolambas (Bellary and Eastern
Mysore), Tadigaipadi (the district of Mysore), vengi (southern part of Northern
Circars), Coorg (kudamalainadu) and the Pandyas. The last were the natural
enemies of Cholas. Having already overcome the Chera, Rajarajan assumed the
title "Mummudi Cholan". The Western and the Eastern Chalukyas of the Deccan
were conquered next.
A few year later the Eastern Chalukya prince Vimaladitya married the eldest
daughter of Rajarajan and became the King of Vengi, which was still under
Cholas. his son and grandson also married daughters of Chola kings, and it was
the second of these rulers, the great Kulotunga I, who, in later years, claimed the
Chola Kingdom as his mother heritage and established a new dynasty at
Thanjavur. The Western Chalukyas remained for the long the stubborn enemies
of the Cholas. During the next three years, Rajarajan subdued Quilon and the
northern kingdom of Kalinga, through his son Rajendra Cholan. Chola also
simultaneously directed his arms against Ceylon. Rajarajan moved the capital
from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruva and built here in memory of his mother
Vanavan Mahadevi the Siva Devalaya for Vanavan Mahadevi Isvaramudaiyar.
With Rajarajan, the Chola culture and Saiva religion permeated the whole of
Rajarajan having thus realised his cherished military glories, in or about
1003 AD has sheathed his sword, and turned his thoughts towards a life of peace.
It was about this time, that the Chidambaram temple authorities bestowed on him
the title of "Sri Rajarajan" and "Sivapadasekara.
Rajarajan constructed the Great Bragtheeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, his
capital, remembering the pious religious works of his ancestor Parantaka I. The
temple is a stupendous monument of the religious instinct of the sovereign. The
king was ardent devotee of Lord Siva and was highly tolerant in matters of religion.
Everybody received equal favour at his hands. he also granted large endowments
to the Cudamani Vihara in Nagapattinam built by Sailendra king, Sri Mara
As a worshiper of Sri Thyagaraja at Thiruvarur, the king heard the recital of
the holy presence, that remained the current collection of the Thevaram hymns of
Saint Sundarar, Thirunavukkarasar and Jnanasambandar. King concerned about
the loss of priceless Saiva devotional treasure, and set out for their search.He
sought Adi-Saiva Nambiandar-Nambi of Thirunaraiyar's help and discovered the
collection of the Thevaram - Divine garland of hymns- in a room at the back of the
Sri Nataraja's sanctum at the Chidambaram temple. At the instance of the king,
Nambiandar-Nambi compiled them and Rajaraja arranged to have them sung in
the Saiva shrines.
Thanjavur was the royal city of the Cholas, Nayaks and the Mahrattas.
Thanjavur was at height of its glory during Rajaraja Cholan. The Big Temple and
the other famous temples in the district are known all over the world. Thanjavur
was the cultural capital of the country in 1790. Thanjavur gained prominence
during the period of Chola Kings, who made it as their capital. It is known as the
Granary of the South India lying in the deltaic region of the famous river Cauvery
and criss-crossed by lengthy network of irrigation canals.
Thanjavur lies to the east of Trichy and has the reputation as the "Rice Bowl
of Tamil Nadu". The Tamil University, set up recently is situated here and is
devoted to the growth of Tamil literature and language. One of the best temples in
South India, the Brihadeeswarar Temple or the Big Temple built by the greatest
Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola, is that dynasty's finest contribution to Dravidan
temple architecture. If the Big Temple is an ancient landmark of Thanjavur, the
Tamil University a Temple of learning could be spoken of, as its modern
counterpart with its impressive temple-like facade along with its library housed in a
circular building resembling the architectural style of India's parliament.
Main article: Brihadisvara Temple
Rajaraja’s great reign is commemorated by the magnificent Siva temple in
Thanjavur, called Raajarajeswaram - the finest monument of this period of South
Indian history. The temple is remarkable both for its massive proportions and for its
simplicity of design. It is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
forming part of the Great Living Chola Temples site.
The construction of the temple is said to have been completed on the 275th day of
the 25th year of his reign. After its commemoration the great temple and the capital
had close business relations with the rest of the country and acted as a centre of
both religious and economic activity. Year after year villages from all over the
country had to supply men and material for the temple maintenance.
Rajaraja Chola's statue at Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur.
From the 23rd to the 29th year of Rajaraja’s rule his dominions enjoyed peace and
the king apparently devoted his energies to the task of internal administration. The
building of the Rajarajesvara temple in Thanjavur and the various endowments and
gifts to it must have occupied a prominent place in the king’s mind during these
Rajaraja carried out a revenue and settlement during the final years of his reign.
Inscriptions found in the Thanjavur temple bear testimony to the accuracy of this
operation. Land as small in extent as 1/52,428,800,000 of a ‘veli’ (a land measure)
was measured and assessed to revenue. The revenue survey enabled for the
confiscation of lands of the defaulting landlords.
Rajaraja also perfected the administrative organization by creating strong and
centralised machinery and by appointing local government authorities. He installed
a system of audit and control by which the village assemblies and other public
bodies were held to account while not curtailing their autonomy.
Rajaraja created a powerful standing army and a considerable navy which
achieved even greater success under his son Rajendra. The prominence given to
the army from the conquest of the Pandyas down to the last year of the king’s reign
is significant, and shows the spirit with which he treated his soldiers. A number of
regiments are mentioned in the Tanjore inscriptions and it is evident that Rajaraja
gave his army its due share in the glory derived from his extensive conquests.
In most of the foregoing names the first portion appears to be the surnames or
titles of the king himself or of his son. That these regiments should have been
called after the king or his son is indicative of the attachment the Chola king bore
towards his army.
It is possible that these royal names were pre-fixed to the designations of these
regiments after they had distinguished themselves in some engagement or other. It
is worthy of note that there are elephant troops, cavalry and foot soldiers among
these regiments. To some of these regiments, the management of certain minor
shrines of the temple was entrusted and they were expected to provide for the
requirements of the shrine. Others among them took money from the temple on
interest, which they agreed to pay in cash. We are not, however, told to what
productive purpose they applied this money. At any rate all these transactions
show that the king created in them an interest in the temple he built.
An ardent follower of Saivism (one of the 4 major streams of Hinduism), Rajaraja
was nevertheless tolerant towards other faiths and creeds. He also had several
temples for Vishnu constructed. He also encouraged the construction of the
Buddhist Chudamani Vihara at the request of the Srivijaya king Sri
Maravijayatungavarman. Rajaraja dedicated the proceeds of the revenue from the
village of Anaimangalam towards the upkeep of this Vihara.
Personal Life and Family
Rajaraja was born Arulmozhi Varman and was the third child of Parantaka
Sundara Chola. His elder brother Aditya II was assassinated c. 969 CE. He had
great respect for his elder sister Ālvār Sri Parāntakan Sri Kundavai Pirāttiyār or
more popularly referred to as Kundavai Pirāttiyār. We also know of at least one
daughter of Rajaraja called Rajaraja Kundavai Alvar who he named after his
sister. Rajaraja had a number of wives.The mother of Rajendra I, the only
known son of Rajaraja, was Vanavan Maha Devi, Princess of Velir. Rajaraja must
have had at least three daughters of whom the names of two are said to be
Kundavi. Rajaraja was succeeded by Rajendra Chola I. His natal star was
Sadhayam. It was celebrated as Sadhaya-nal vizha, a 7 day festival culminating on
his star birthday during the king and his son's reign. Rajaraja also bore the title
Telungana Kula Kala. He was also known as Rajaraja Sivapada Sekhara (he who
had the feet of Lord Shiva as his crown.
Historic novels featuring Rajaraja Chola-I
1. Arulmozhi Varman, is the hero of Kalki Krishnamurthy’s historical
masterpiece Ponniyin Selvan. The heart of the story revolves around the
mysteries surrounding the assassination of Aditya Karikalan in the
sambuvarayar maaligai at Melakadambur and the subsequent accession of
Uttama to the Chola throne. Kalki imagines Arulmozhi sacrificing his rightful
claim to the throne by crowning Uttama during his own coronation.
The South Zone Cultural Centre
A South Zone Cultural Center (SZCC), corresponding to the North, West and
North-East zone cultural centres, was moved to Thanjavur after functioning initially
from the town of Tiruvaiyaru. It is the only one of its kind in South India and is
dedicated to the promotion of fine arts, dance, drama, music, theater and other arts
by providing opportunities for the artists, documenting dying art forms and ensuring
the participation of the youth in cultural activities. It organizes special programs
and collaborative programs with the Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Academi,
Sahitya Akademi and National School of Drama.