early ruling dynasties of Southern India were the Cheras, Cholas the
Pandyas who ethnologically are supposed to have been of a common stock,
different from that of the Aryans of Northern India.
Their language was Tamil and their country accordingly was known
country of the Tamils’. Under
the Aryan influence, the name Tamilakam appears in later times to
have been Sanskritised into Dramilak or Dramidaka and
dropping the ka in accordance with a rule of Sanskrit grammar it
became Dramila Dramida, Dravida or Dravida. When and how
these changes took place it is difficult to say.
Agastya and Parasurama are famous Aryan sages whose stories are
intimately connected from the epic times, with the Dravida country,
Southern India. The term
Dramidah occurs as the name of a country, perhaps South India, I the
Bhismaparvan of the Mahabharata.
Manu speaks of the Dravidas as a degraded class of Kshatriyas.
Ptolemy in the first century A.D. used the word Dimirice,
perhaps, the denote the very same tract of land.
In the Brihajjataka of Varahamihira and in Hiuen Tsang, we
find it restricted to the name of a district on the east coast of the
Deccan, of which the capital was Conjeeveram.
The word Tamil means
‘melodious’ and it was evidently its sweetness that contributed the
name Tamil to that language. Whatever
may have been the origin of the word, it remains a fact that the Aryans
changed it into ‘Dramida’ first and in their characteristic way
attempted afterwards to assimilate it and trace it to some Sanskrit root
: this appears to have been the practice of the day, as may be inferred
from the incidental note on Dravidi words given by Bhatta Kumarila in
his famous Tantra-Varttika.
point out several racial differences between the Dravidians and the
Aryans such as (1) their customs and manners, (2) their thought
formations, and (3) the peculiarities in their physical build.
While all this may establish Dravidians as a distinct type, it
does not help the historian to peep into the antiquity of an independent
Dravidian age in the South, uncontaminated by Aryan influence : much
less does it enable him to record any events that might corroborate its
separate existence. Tamil
literature, to a certain extent speaks of the early period of the Tamils
: but the major portion of its account has yet to be worked out and
proved to be a reliable record of contemporaneous events.
Even the few historical facts imbedded in it, are in the usual
oriental fashion mixed up with the imagery of the poet or the flattery
of the courtier.
kingdoms of the Choda, Pandya and Keralaputta (Chera) are stated in the
Rock Edicts of Asoka to have been bordering on the dominions of the
Mauryan Emperor and in the first of these, i.e., the Choda country, the
faithful (i.e., Buddhists) are reported to have been living.
That Buddhism had already reached the South even before Asoka’s
time is thus confirmed by the latter statement, though the Ceylonese
chronicle Mahavamsa denies the fact poetically what it says that
the missionaries of Asoka flew over Southern India direct to Ceylon from
Kalinga to preach the Buddhist faith there.
Stronger evidences have also been recently brought to light which
prove the possible influence of Buddhism in Southern India. Whatever the Epics, the Puranas and other early Sanskrit
works may state or prove regarding the original Dravida inhabitants,
their country and their civilization, positive epigraphical evidence
contained in the cave inscriptions of the Madura and Tinnevelly
districts written in Brahmi characters of a pre-Asokan type, and in a
language whose affinity to the Dravidian may yet be established when
these queer records come to be successfully interpreted,
shows that these natural caverns, like the thousands of similar
rock-shelters of Ceylon were occupied in pre-Christian times by the
Buddhists and converted by them into residences for their ascetics.
The Brahmi characters of these records at any rate must have been
introduced by the Buddhists from the north or from Ceylon, though the
language adopted may have been one mostly influenced by local dialects.
Besides these, no further traces of Buddhism are known to exist
in South India till after a long interval.
In the 11th century A.D. we find gifts made to the
great vihara (called Puduveligopuram) at Nagapattanam (Negapatam)
by the famous Chola king Rajaraja I. Tamil literature abounds in references to Buddhist stories
and authors and leaves no doubt that Buddhism thrived well from its very
inception right up to the period of the Saiva and Vaishnava revivals in
the early 7th century A.D. and perhaps in a milder form even
after that period, down to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of the
Puranic and the Buddhist periods in the history of Southern India being
thus almost a blank from an epigraphical point of view the history of
the Saiva saints and Vaishnava Alvars handed down by tradition and
recorded in the books Periyapuranam and Guruparaparaprabhava
respectively, and some well-known works of the Sangam period,
supply though sparingly, some historical data to work upon. Of the latter class, the Pattinappalai is exclusively
devoted to the life of the reputed king Karikala who had the banks of
the Kaveri constructed by his vassal kings and who is said to have set
his foot over the crowns of the Pandya and the Chera.
In chapter V of his Tamils, 1800 years AGO, Mr.
Kanakasabhai Pillai has collected all that is available in literature
regarding the early Chola kings of whom he mentions about eight.
Karikala was the most famous of them.
It was he that changed his capital from Uraiyur to
Kavirippumpattinam, erected banks on either side of the river Kaveri,
dug irrigation canals and patronized poets.
After defeating the Pandyas and the Cheras, the contracted
diplomatic marriage relations with the latter and political alliance
with the former.
or ‘the Battle-field’, a poem written by the poet Poygaiyar,
describes the fight at Kalumalam between the Chola king Chengannan or
Kochchengannan and the Chera king Kanaikkal Irumporai, wherein the later
is stated to have been defeated and imprisoned by the former but
released through the intervention of the poet Poygaiyar whose poem had
such good effect on the victorious Chola that he granted the request of
the poet, viz., the release of the Chera king.
Chengannan is called the king of the ‘country watered by the
river Kaveri.’ The same
event is also referred to in the later poem, the Kalingattupparani
which describes the conquest of
Kalinga by Kulottunga-Chola I. Epigraphical
records describe Kochchengannan as a fervent devotee of Siva and as
having been freed by that god from the bondage of a spider’s body.
In the Periyapuranam, Kochchengannan is stated to have
been a staunch Saiva, to have built the temple at Jambukesvaram in the
Trichinopoly district and to have restored many a Siva temple in the
Chola country from ruin.
Although a staunch Saiva himself, Kochchengannan is stated to
have built Vaishnava temples as well.
Still another early Chola king mentioned in literature is
Perunatkilli or Perunarkilli who was ‘the master of many sciences.’
and Perunarkilli, according to Mr. Kanakasabhai Pillai came to the
throne after Karikala. Literature
states that Killivalavan, the elder brother of Perunarkilli, married a
Naga princess named Pilivalai during a romantic excursion and obtained
by her a son called Tondai. The
king made this prince the ruler of the Tondai-mandalam and thus even the
little power that might have been wielded by the Cholas in the northern
part of their vast dominions went out of their hands.
Tondai and his descendants are known in later history as Pallavas
(Tondaiyarkon). It is significant that the destruction of the capital town of
Kavirippumpattinam happened during the reign of Killivalavan.
Of Kochchengannan, the Vaishnava saint Tirumangai-Alvar of the 8th
century A.D. says that he built 70 temples for Vishnu.
This makes Kochchengannan anterior to Tirumangai-Alvar.
Periyapuranam mentions other Chola kings and chiefs such as
Pugalchola-Nayanar, Idangali-Nayanar and Kurruva-Nayanar who are not
referred to in epigraphical records.
vague memory with which the authors of the copper-plate records refer to
the three early Chola kings is sufficient evidence to show that at the
commencement of the 10th century A.D., the probable date of
the earliest of these records, their names carried with them no more
significance than the other legendary names in the earlier portion of
the genealogical list. It
is surprising also that references to their rule and to their battles
are rarely, if at all, found in the thousands of Chola inscriptions
distributed over almost every part of the Chola country.
While thus the political status of these early Chola kings was
altogether forgotten at the commencement of their revival in the end of
the 9th century A.D., their devotion to Saivism which
preceded this revival and their actual participation in its propaganda
are established by the stories about them related in the Periyapuranam.
the epigraphical records, the Anbil plates of Sundara-Chola (Parantaka
II) mention Kochchengannan as the builder of Siva temples in various
parts of his kingdom.
The Tiruvalangadu grant and the large Leyden plates make only a
mere mention of him and do not give further details.
In the genealogical order, he is placed some time after the
famous Karikala who has been ascribed on other grounds roughly to the
end of the 5th century A.D. Perhaps Kochchengannan was also
like Karikala a famous Chola king of about that period,
but unlike him he had a religious turn of mind. The Cholas in the time of Karikala must have still been a
powerful independent race in their native country.
Leyden plates, the Tiruvalangadu grant, the Anbil plates of
Sundara-Chola and the Kanyakumari inscription of Virarajendra-Chola are
the only epigraphical records discovered and published so far, that give
genealogical lists of Chola kings.
These do not supply us with any other facts about the earlier
members of the dynasty than what has been already gathered from
literature. The mythical
pedigree, in these records, which traces the Cholas to the Sun includes
such Puranic and legendary names as those of Manu, Ikshvaku, Prithu,
Mandhatri, Muchukunda, Sibi, etc., and the eponymous Chola (son of
Bharata) after whom the race received the name Chola.
One of the legendary kings mentioned in the Kanyakumari record, viz.,
Panchapa is stated to have acquired that name by his affording
protection to five Yakshas. Suraguru
was another who earned the title Mrityujit, by conquering even the god
of Death. Vyaghraketu was
still another from whom the Cholas evidently borrowed the banner of the
tiger. All the kings so far
enumerated, lived ‘in ages prior to the Kaliyuga’.
To the Kaliyuga itself belonged Karikala, the builder of the
banks of the Kaveri and the renewer of the town of Kanchi ;
Kochchengannan, the fervent devotee of Siva, who was freed by that god
from the bondage of a spider’s body and who much influenced the
revival of Saivism in Southern India and Perunatkilli.
When then could have been the reason for the fact that the doings
of these famous Cholas kings, whose constant feuds with the Pandyas and
the Cheras or their diplomatic alliances with either of them are so
elaborately described by contemporaneous Tamil poets, faded away from
the memory of the panegyrists of Sundara-Chola (Parantaka II), Rajaraja
I and Rajendra-Chola I?
We have perhaps to suppose that between Karikala, whose time has
been fixed to be about the end of the 5th century A.D., and
Vijayalaya of the 9th century, the Cholas must have become so
as even to lose their identity owing perhaps to the rise of the Pallavas
of Conjeeveram on the one side and to the pushing inroads of the Pandyas
on the other. The Madras
Museum Plates of Uttama-Chola refer to a hall in the
temple of Uragam at Conjeeveram named Karikala-terri probably after
Karikala. The defeat of the
unnamed Pandya king at Vennil by Karikala might be established if we
compare this statement with the genealogical account of the Pandya
dynasty given in the Velvikudi and the Sinnamanur plates.
About the end of the 5th century A.D.
the period of Karikala’s rule, the Pandyas appear to have been
politically weak and the Pandya country itself is said to have been
usurped by the Kalabhras. With
the rise of Kadungon
in that family, the Pandyas are said to have revived and spread their
descendants in the bordering Chola country were not evidently able to
withstand the onrush of the Pandyas and accordingly abandoned their
ancestral dominions for about 300 years at least, after Karikala, until
Vijayalaya once again, about the end of the 9th Century A.D.,
recaptured Tanjavur and established his sway over the ancestral Chola
dominions. It is suggested
that during this exile the Cholas might have ruled as petty chiefs in
the south-western part of the Telugu country and given rise there to a
new family of Telugu kings of Chola origin, whom Mr. Venkayya calls
Telugu-Chodas and who in their records claim descent from the solar race
and county Karikala as one of their famous ancestors.
satisfactory working basis for the history of the Pallavas, the Pandyas
and the revived Cholas may be considered as fairly supplied, though, in
the case of the second of these, abundant material available for the
medieval period from the twelfth to the fifteenth century has not been
sufficiently represented and much of the written history of the first is
found distributed over various antiquarian books and journals.
While, therefore, giving a full bibliography for the study of the
first, and drawing special attention in this connection to the Sanskrit
work Mattavilasa-Prahasana composed
by the great Pallava king Mahendravarman I, about the beginning of the 7th
century A.D., I propose to put together in the following pages a
detailed account of the Cholas of Tanjore as far as it could be gathered
mainly from the inscriptions included in the first three volumes of the South-Indian
Inscriptions, and collating, of course, where necessary, information from
other available sources. All
that could be said of the early Pandyas is found infra I the
historical introduction to the two Sinnamanur plates.