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Remembering a king

THANJAVUR:TAMILNADU:24/06/2014:- The Brahadeewarar temple, called the Big Temple, is dedicated to Lord Siva. It was built by the great King Raja Raja Chola (985 -1012 A.D). it is an outstanding exmple of Chola architecture. Recognizing its unique architectural excellence, UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Monument in Thanjavur on Tuesday...Photo:M_Moorthy   | Photo Credit: M_Moorthy - M_Moorthy

For the palaces of Thanjavur, 1014 A.D. was a remarkable year. One of the greatest emperors of their time, the King of the Chola dynasty, Raja Raja Chola I, had passed away. It was time for his son, Rajendra Chola I, to take over the vast empire. Everyone was apprehensive. Even though Rajendra and Raja Raja had ruled as regents since 1012 A.D., the kingdom mourned the passing of its king and awaited its new one anxiously. So much had been written and sung in his father’s praise the Brihadeeswara Temple, which stood towering over the city was a constant reminder of his great deeds. What would Rajendra do as King?

Rajendra Chola I came from a long line of great kings. Here are some other kings of the medieval Chola kingdom, in chronological order

Vijayalaya Chola

Parantaka Chola I

Gandaraditya Chola

Sundara Chola

Raja Raja Chola I

Rajendra Chola I

Rajadiraja Chola I

Rajendra Chola II

Virarajendra Chola

Growing up in the shadow of his great father, Rajendra had often assisted him on many campaigns. As a young soldier of the Chola army, Rajendra led conquests against the Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. He established himself as an able leader. The Chola kings had the habit of appointing their successors while they were alive, probably to avoid dispute among the heirs later. And so, Rajendra was appointed as yuvaraja or regent and ruled along with his father in his last years.

Rajendra’s reign

Contrary to everyone’s expectations, Rajendra rose up to his father’s name and went even beyond his legacy. While Raja Raja Chola was the first king to have a Navy, Rajendra organised the fleet and used it to extend the Chola rule far and wide. He also took charge of his army and finished the battles that his father fought for long — with Sri Lanka, the Pandya kings and in the Kalinga territories. He brought them all under his reign. However, the best was yet to come.

Rajendra’s army marched north, and along the Ganges, bringing the water of the sacred river back to the kingdom of the South. From then on, he was called Gangaikondan (he who brought the Ganges). His navy was unmatched and would sail to kingdoms that are now Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. In fact, it was his successor, Surya Varma II, who built the Angkor Wat, the largest Hindu temple in the world, in Cambodia.

To commemorate his success over the Pala dynasty, Rajendra built a new capital for his vast kingdom which extended from Sri Lanka in the south up to the Tungabhadra. Gangaikondacholapuram rose, about 80 km from the old Chola capital — Thanjavur. It was to be the new capital from 1025 A.D. for about 250 years. Here, Rajendra built a temple that looked much like his father’s historic feat in the old city and called it Gangaikonda Choleeswaram (it is now also referred to as the Brihadeeswara temple, a smaller version of the original at Thanjavur). While it is no match for the sheer size of its predecessor, its stone and sculpture work, done in exquisite detail by the master craftsmen of his time, more than makes up for its size. He is also credited with creating a vast lake which is 16 miles long and three miles wide. This water body is still one of India’s largest man-made lakes.

Under his reign, the Cholas became an indomitable dynasty in Asia, and rose in strength. Rajendra had a strong army and his navy had no match. Even today, the Indian Government calls its Naval Training Academy as T.S. Rajendra, after his expert command over the seas.

This year, 2014, marks 1,000 years since the ascension of one of the greatest rulers of India. In July, there were grand celebrations in Gangaikonda Cholapuram to remember the man who moved across land and sea, and surpassed his father to attain everlasting glory.

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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 7:15:24 PM |

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