Chola Territories c. 1070 CE
|Reign||c. 1070 – c. 1122 CE|
four other sons
|List of Chola kings and emperors|
|Interregnum (c. 200 – c. 848)|
Kulottunga Chola (also spelt Kulothunga; r. 1070 – 1122 CE) was an 11th century monarch of the Chola Empire. He was one of the sovereigns who bore the title Kulottunga, literally meaning the exalter of his race. He did not belong to the main line of Cholas but was rather a prince of the Eastern Chalukya dynasty. His mother was a Chola princess and the daughter of emperor Rajendra Chola I. His accession marked the beginning of a new era and ushered in a period of internal peace and benevolent administration.
He had diplomatic relations with the north Indian city Kanauj and also with distant countries like Cambodia, Sri Vijaya, Khmer empire, kingdom of Pagan(Burma) and China. He established Chola overlordship over the Sri Vijaya province Kedah in Malaysia. Like his predecessors, he was a patron of arts and literature and the famous poem Kalingattu parani was composed during his rule and is attributed to Jayamkondar who is said to have been his court poet. His records also testify to the highly organised system of fiscal and local administration. During his reign he carried out a massive land survey that formed the basis for taxation.
According to historian Nilakanta Sastri, Kulottunga avoided unnecessary wars and evinced a true regard for the well-being of his subjects. He had a long and prosperous reign characterized by unparalleled success that laid the foundation for the well being of the empire for the next 150 years.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Accession
- 3 Military campaigns
- 4 Overseas contacts
- 5 Extent of the Empire
- 6 Administration
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Religious attitude
- 9 Art and Architecture
- 10 Inscriptions
- 11 References
Kulottunga Chola I was the maternal grandson of Emperor Rajendra Chola I through his daughter Ammangadevi. His father was the Eastern Chalukya king Rajaraja Narendra who himself was the son of Rajendra Chola's sister Kundavai and king Vimaladitya of Eastern Chalukyan dynasty. The poem Kalingathuparani gives the details of his birth in the canto Avataram where his mother is described as belonging to the solar race and his father to the lunar race. As a Chola prince he conquered the Sri Vijaya province Kedah and Chakrakota mandala(Bastar in modern Chhattisgarh) on behalf of his maternal uncle Emperor Virarajendra Chola in the 11th century.
The Tamil poem Kalingathuparani describes that the king was brought up in the court of his maternal grandfather in Gangaikondacholapuram. During his youth, Kulottunga participated in many of the wars beside kings like Rajendra Chola, and his successors like Rajadhiraja, Rajendra II and Virarajendra Chola. During this time, he engaged in the northern campaigns of the empire where he secured several victories and made his mark in Sakkarakotam. This area is identified with the present day Bastar-Kalahandi district-Koraput region which together formed the Chakrakota mandala back in medieval times. According to the Parani poem, it was around this time that the Chola king died and the state was thrown into a state of anarchy until Abhaya (as Kulottunga is referred to in the poem) returned and restored order.
Other sources like Bilhana's Vikramankadevacharita, a work on the western Chalukya Vikramaditya VI and Vikkiraman Solan Ula(a work on Kulottunga's son and successor Vikrama Chola) corroborate these events more or less and both works agree that there was a king between Virarajendra and Kulottunga. This king has been identified with Adhirajendra and it is after the death of this Chola king that the kingdom was thrown into a state of anarchy. Kulottunga's own inscriptions also speak of the lack of leadership in the Chola country at the time of his ascension and describe that the king wore the excellent crown of jewels by right to prevent the goddess Lakshmi of Southern region from becoming common property and to remove the loneliness of the goddess of the Chola country adorned by Ponni(Kaveri). Thus it was under these circumstances that Kulottunga ascended the Chola throne in 1070 A.D and established himself by soon overcoming the threats to the Chola Empire. According to historian Sastri, Kulottunga was in his teens or barely into his twenties when he ascended the throne. He had a prosperous reign characterized by unparalleled success and laid the foundation for the well being of the empire for the next 150 years.
When Kulottunga was a still a prince, he participated in many of the northern campaigns of his predecessor Virarajendra Chola. In the 5th year of his reign Virarajendra Chola dispatched his army to Kalinga and beyond it to Sakkarakottam.. These expeditions appear to have been led by Kulottunga Chola I who in his inscriptions claims that while he was still heir-apparent, he overcame the treachery of his enemies and by the strength of his arm and sword captured herds of elephants at Vayiragaram, conquered Sakkarakottam and graciously took tribute from the king of Dhara. Vayiragaram is identified with Wairagarh, a few miles off Bastar in the Chanda district and Sakkarakottam is the area in and around Bastar-Kalahandi district-Koraput region which was called as the Chakrakota mandala in medieval times. Dhara is the Nagavanshi king Dharavarsha who was the ruler of Sakkarakottam during this period. The treachery that Kulottunga speaks of is an allusion to the internal politics of the empire and the schemes of his rivals who sought to deny him his rightful inheritance. According to historian Sastri, in spite of these setbacks, Kulottunga was successful in carving out a small principality for himself, north of Vengi, for he claims that just like Vishnu( who in his Varaha avatar) had lifted the earth, he gently raised the goddess of the earth residing in the Land of the rising sun and placed her under the shade of his parasol.
Western Chalukya Conflicts
The Chalukya(Western) - Chola rivalry goes back to the beginning of the 10th century. The Western Chalukyas waged many wars with the Chola emperors and on each occasion, the wars ended with the Cholas chasing their Chalukyas rivals out of the battlefield, occupying their capital, with death of their generals or feudatories and levying tribute on the Chalukyas from time to time. Tailapa II and his son Satyashraya who were opponents of Raja Raja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I ended up being defeated at Annigeri and at Kogali respectively, Jayasimha was defeated in Kadambalige, Ahavamalla Someshwara I suffered defeats many a time at the hands of Rajadhiraja Chola, and lost his brother Jayasingan in battle with Rajendra Chola II.
After Rajadhiraja Chola and Rajendra Chola II, their brother Virarajendra Chola defeated Ahavamalla (Someshwara I) in not less five occasions, put to flight his two sons Vikkalan(Vikramaditya VI) and Singanan(Jayasimha III) multiple times in the battles of Kudal sangamam, and defeated his eldest son and crown-prince Someshwara II in Kampili before he could untie the necklace(of a yuvaraja in order to wear the one of a king during coronation) he had put on. Ahavamalla seems to have died in the reign of Virarajendra Chola for we find no mention of him in Kulottunga's records. This is evident from a record of Virarajendra, who in his 5th year states that unable to bear the disgrace of his earlier defeats, Ahavamalla wrote a letter to the Chola calling for war but in the end never showed up and instead fled and plunged himself into the ocean.. This is conceded in Bilhana's Vikramakadevacarita, a work on the life of Vikramaditya VI who claims that Ahavamalla Someshwara I died around this time by committing ritual suicide in the Tungabhadra. Upon his father's death, Vikramaditya VI approached Virarajendra and sued for peace and the Chola agreed as he saw in him an ally to counter and nullify the crown-prince Someswara II. Accordingly the Chola offered his daughter's hand in marriage, bestowed upon him the Rattapadi seven and a half lakh country and made him the Vallabha (Chalukyan king) by putting the necklace that illuminated the eight directions. Vikramdaditya readily accepted the deal for he had his own plans to overthrow his elder brother, which he would eventually accomplish and then usurp the throne. There was also another player namely Vijayaditya on whom Virarajendra had bestowed Vengi towards the end of his reign. Some historians identify this Vijayaditya with the Eastern Chalukyan prince and half-brother of Rajaraja Narendra while others like Venkayya suggest that this person was yet another younger brother of Vikramaditya VI. That this Vijayaditya was an ally of Vikramaditya VI is evident from an inscription of Rajadhiraja Chola I. So at the end of Virarajendra's reign, Kulottunga found himself facing Vikkalan(Vikramaditya), the latter's younger brother Singanan(Jayasimha), their elder brother Someshwara II and their younger brother or ally Vijayaditya.
It was clear from the time Kulottunga ascended the throne that a confrontation with the Western Chalukyas was imminent as Vikramaditya could never accept the union of the Chola and Vengi kingdoms under the same ruler, let alone Kulottunga's accession for it simply meant an enemy too powerful. Kulottunga knew this from the very beginning and accordingly made preparations for the showdown. In 1075-76 A.D, the war began with the incursion of the Chalukyan forces into the Chola territories and the two armies met in the Kolar district. What followed was the Chola counter-attack popularly known as the Nangili episode. In the ensuing battle, the Chalukyan army was completely routed and were chased by the Chola forces from the rocky roads of Nangili all the way to the Tungabhadra via Manalur. Vikramaditya is said to have retreated hastily and fled leaving behind the corpses of his dead elephants along the way. Kulottunga captured a thousand elephants at Navilai and conquered two provinces the Gangamandalam and Singanam as a direct result of this war. Navilai has been identified with Navale-nadu in the Mysore district and Singanam were the regions of Jayasimha, the younger brother of Vikramaditya. The word Konkana desam(country of Konkan) is substituted for the word Singanam in some of the records At the end of this war, Kulottunga broke the pride of Vikramaditya and claims that by the time he was finished with the Chalukya, Vikkalan(Vikramaditya) and Singanan(Jayasimha) had no where to retreat except to plunge into the western ocean and in some other records states that Vikramaditya fled back to his own dominions(north of the Tungabhadra) his boasted valour having disappeared and was only too happy to be there for the bow in his(Vikramaditya's) hand was not even bent against his enemy(that is Kulottunga).  This is conceded by Bilhana in the Vikramankadevacarita as he states that after these initial wars there was a long period of peace(about half a century) between the two kingdoms. Towards the end of Kulottunga's reign, Vikramaditya occupied Vengi for a short while when Vikrama Chola and everyone else left south for his coronation. Vikrama Chola re-acquired these territories a few years after his ascension.
Once he finished dealing with Vikramaditya VI, Kulottunga turned his attention to the south and first took up the cause of bringing the old Pandimandalam, the region of the Pandyas into his fold. The Pandya country never reconciled to the Chola overlordship and its rulers were a constant source of trouble for the Chola emperors. The Pandyas made use of the confusion in the Chola country during the accession of Kulottunga and tried once again to reassert their independence.
Back in the days of Rajendra Chola I, the Pandya country was ruled over by Chola-Pandya viceroys but by the time of Kulottunga I, this system had ceased to exist and five Pandyan princes from the old line rose against the king. Kulottunga could not take this situation lightly as the loss of the Pandya territories meant a serious threat to the existence of the Chola kingdom itself. As soon as the Chalukyan war ended, Kulottunga turned all his energy for the suppression of the revolts in the Pandya and the Kerala territories. According to his Tamil inscriptions he marched south with a huge army and put to flight the five Pandyas who fled to the forests. He then proceeded to clear these forests subdued them and took possession of their pearl fisheries and the Podiyil mountains. Another inscription of his in Sanskrit (undated) from Chidambaram gives a similar account, where the glorious king is said to have conquered the five Pandyas with the help of a huge army that discharged many arrows and burnt down the fort of Korkara-durga(Korkai, the early Pandyan capital) as if it was made of straw just as the son of Pandu(Arjuna) had burnt the Khandava forest.
Kulottunga, then directed his army at the Chera rulers of Travancore who like their Pandyan neighbours had followed suit and rebelled against the Chola. He first broke the confederation of the Kungalar and having dispersed them, he then transported the rebellious chiefs of the western hill country(Malabar) to heaven and razed down Vilinam and Salai. The Vikrama Solan Ula describes that Kulottunga destroyed the fleet at Kandalur Salai twice. An inscription in the east wall of the first prakara of the Nataraja temple in Chidambaram eulogizes his victories over the Pandyas and the placing of the victory pillar in Sahyadri mountains(western ghats) after having defeated the innumerable forces of the Keralas.
By 1083 A.D, Kulottunga had successfully subjugated the Pandyan country, defeated the Keralas and annexed the southern regions as far as the Gulf of Mannar, the Podiyil mountains in Tirunelveli, Korkai or Kottaru and Malabar. He did away with the old system of appointing Chola-Pandya viceroys and instead built multiple cantonments as far south as Kottaru near Kanyakumari and heavily garrisoned the strategically important locations of the southern dominions. These units were in charge of protecting his interests and collecting tribute but did not interfere with the internal administration of the conquered territories, a responsibility which he left to the native chiefs and feudatories. His inscriptions belonging to this period are found in Cholapuram, Agastheeswaram, Suchindram, Variyur, Kanyakumari and Kottaru.
The Vengi kingdom was a bone of contention between the Cholas, Chalukyas of Kalyani and the Eastern Gangas from the times of Rajaraja Chola I. It was a site for proxy war during the times of Virarajendra Chola who managed to wrest control of it from the Western Chalukyas and bestowed it on Vijayaditya, the paternal uncle of Kulottunga and who had taken refuge at Virarajendra's feet. It is unclear as to why Kulottunga was overlooked in the accession of Vengi as he would have been the rightful heir. On the other hand, it is of interest to note that Vijayaditya had briefly sided with the Eastern Gangas who decorated themselves as Trikalingadhipati against the Cholas. Virarajendra Chola being a fine statesman must have agreed to bestow the Vengi kingdom on Kulottunga's paternal uncle Vijayaditya to avoid fighting wars on two fronts that is to avoid engaging both the Western Chalukyas and the Eastern Gangas. In any case Kulottunga was generous enough to let his paternal uncle, the usurper Vijayaditya to rule over Vengi even after he ascended the Chola throne. During this period in 1073 A.D, the Vengi kingdom was invaded by the Kalachuri king Yakshakarna of Tripuri. However, this was merely a raid in search of booty rather than an invasion for territorial gains and the intruders were repulsed by Vijayaditya.
After the death of Vijayaditya in 1077, Kulotunga brought the Vengi province directly under his control and appointed his sons to rule over it. Rajaraja Chodaganga, the eldest son of Kulottunga was first appointed as viceroy but as per inscriptions, the prince did not feel at home and returned to the Chola dominions in the south within a year. According to the Teki plates of Rajaraja Chodaganga, the Vengi province under him lay between Manneru in the Nellore district in the south and Mahendragiri in Ganjam district in the north. Rajaraja Chodaganga was followed by his brother Vira Chola who ruled for six years until 1084. The two princes once again governed the Vengi province alternately for a period of 5 years and 4 years respectively. They were then followed by their brother Vikrama Chola who ruled over the region until he was made heir apparent in 1118 A.D. According to the Pithapuram pillar inscription of Mallapadeva dated 1202 A.D, the Vengi province became devoid of a ruler and fell into a state of anarchy when Vikrama Chola left for the Chola dominions in the south towards the end of Kulottunga's reign. Vikramaditya VI used this opportunity to occupy Vengi during this period, however this invasion was short lived and Vikrama Chola recaptured the province and annexed it to the Chola empire as soon as he ascended the throne.
The kingdom of Kalinga was not a single region but rather three distinct countries called Utkala or Odra(north and north-east parts of Odisha), Kosala or Dakshina Kosala(south-west Odisha and Chhattisgarh) and Kalinga proper. This region comprised the whole of present day Orissa and northern part of Andhra Pradesh. According to one view these three regions together were referred to as Trikalinga. The Kalinga kingdom bordered the northern part of Vengimandalam and therefore it was only natural for the different rulers of Kalinga to try and expand into the Eastern Chalukya territory or in the case of Kulottunga, the northern-eastern part of the Chola dominions. During the 11th century, the Kalinga kingdom was ruled by the Eastern Ganga dynasty who invariably became involved in Vengi and thereby indirectly in the Chola politics.
The records of Kulottunga contain descriptions of two Kalinga wars. The first war seems to have occurred before 1096 A.D for we first hear of it from an inscription dated in the 26th year of his reign where he claims to have conquered Kalingamandalam. From the brief nature of the description regarding the first war, we may conclude that this perhaps occurred during Kulottunga's youth. The king himself is said to have left the throne, crossed the Vengimandalam in the north and set fire to Kalinga after destroying a number of chiefs. The first Kalinga war seems to have been brought about by Kalinga's aggression against Vengi. The war resulted in the annexation of the southern part of Kalinga to the Chola kingdom. This is evident from the Teki plates of Kulottunga's son, Rajaraja Chodaganga, whose dominions included the region up to Mahendragiri in the Ganjam district in the north.
The second invasion took place a few years later, sometime before the 33rd year of the king's reign and is the subject of the celebrated Tamil poem Kalingathupparani. This expedition was led by his general Karunakara Tondaiman who defeated the Kalinga ruler Anantavarman Chodaganga of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. Anantavarman was related to Kulottunga but according to the poem this did not stop Kulottunga from invading Kalinga and putting him to flight. The Chola army is said to have returned with vast booty from this campaign. This fact is also borne out by an inscription of the king from the Bhimesvara temple in Draksharama. It is dated in the 33rd year of the king's reign and states that an officer of the king titled variously as Pallavaraja and Vanduvaraja, reduced the whole of Kalinga to ashes, destroyed the Ganga Devendravarman in battle with the aid of the Kosala army and planted a pillar of victory in the Odra frontier so as to raise aloft the fame of his king Kulottunga Chola. This chief is none other than Karunakara Tondaiman as he is said to be from Tirunaraiyur nadu and the lord of Vandai as in the poem. His personal name is given as Tiruvarangan and is said to be the son of Sirilango of Vandalanjeri in Tirunaraiyur nadu. He is described as a sad(good)-vaishnava and is said to have built a Vishnu temple made of black stone in Alavely.
According to the poem, the reason for the second war was a response to the default of Kalinga in its payment of annual tributes to Kulottunga by Anantavarman and his father Devendravarman. Another view, by some historians like Venkayya is that Kulottunga took up the expedition in order to help his relative Anantavarman against North Kalinga rebels. Yet another view is that, Devendravarman belonged to a collateral line of the Eastern Ganga dynasty and had opposed the accession of Kulottunga's relative Anantvarman. We have an inscription of Kulottunga from the Bhimesvara temple in Godavari district that describes a gift by the son of Anantavarmadeva, so it would seem that the latter was a vassal or at least in friendly terms with Kulottunga for sometime.
Eelam (Sri Lanka)
According to the Mahavamsa, the Cholas were driven out of Lanka in the 15th year of Vijayabahu which coincides with the accession date of Kulottunga. Therefore, it would seem that the Sinhalese king took the opportunity to attack the Chola forces in the island nation at a time when the kingdom under Kulottunga was dealing with multiple revolts and attacks in the mainland. In 1070 CE Vijayabahu attacked the Chola forces from his enclave in the Rohana district and defeated them. He sent two armies, one from Mahanagakula via Dakkinadesa and the other via the well known route along Mahavali-Ganga. These armies defeated the Chola forces or what was left of them and captured Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. After his victory over the Cholas, Vijayabahu got himself anointed in Anuradhapura. A few months later he moved to Polonnaruwa, renamed it as Vijayarajapura, made it his capital and declared himself king of the island nation.
Unlike his predecessors like Rajaraja Chola I, Rajendra Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola I etc., who took great pride in their expeditions to the island nation and recorded the details in their inscriptions, Kulottunga did not seem to have been interested in maintaining Chola hegemony over Lanka as his inscriptions are generally silent in regards to Lanka or with regards to any campaigns or wars against the Sinhalese rulers. According to historian Nilakanta Sastri, Kulottunga was content with keeping the Chola empire from disintegrating on the mainland and was not that bothered or affected with the loss of the island nation.
It is of interest to note that Vijayabahu married Lilavati, the daughter of Jagatipala, a former ruler of Rohana, after she escaped from the Cholas and returned to the island kingdom. Jagatipala was originally a prince of Ayodhya who had come to Lanka and become ruler of Rohana. He was slain on the battlefield during the Lankan expeditions of Kulottunga's predecessor, Rajadhiraja Chola I when the Sinhalese kingdom lost four crowns in quick succession. At that time, this princess along with her aunt or mother was taken captive by the Chola forces. These events are described in great detail in the Mahavamsa and in an inscription of Rajadhiraja Chola I where Jagatipala is called as Veera-salamegan and described as a prince of Kanyakubja.
Kulottunga Chola I maintained overseas contacts with kingdoms of Sri Vijaya, China and Khmer. The renaming of the famous harbor of Vishakhapattanam in Andhra Pradesh as Kulottungacolapattanam also indicates his interest in trade with foreign countries across the Bay of Bengal. In 1077 AD, king Chulien(Chola) Ti-hua-kialo sent an embassy to Chinese court for promoting trade. Historian Nilakanta Sastri identifies this Chola ruler with Kulottunga Chola.. This trading venture seems to have ended profitably for the Cholas and they returned with over 81,000 strings of copper cash and many more valuables. The Khmer king Suryavarman II, builder of the famous Angkor Wat sent a mission to the Chola dynasty and presented a precious stone to Kulottunga Chola I in 1114 CE. According to Burmese accounts, Kyanzittha, the ruler of Pagan (Burma) met with the Chola royal family by sending an ambassador to the Chola emperor. In an inscription in Pagan, he even claims to have converted the Chola to the teachings of Buddha through a personal letter written on gold leaves.
There is also evidence to suggest that Kulottunga in his youth (1063 CE) was in Sri Vijaya:148 restoring order and maintaining Chola influence in that area.It would do good to recall that in an inscription of the 7th year of his reign, Virarajendra Chola states that he conquered Kadaram and gave it back to its king who came and worshiped his feet. These expeditions seem to have been led by Kulottunga Chola to help the Sailendra king who had sought the help of Virarajendra. An inscription of Canton mentions Ti-hua-kialo as the ruler of Sri Vijaya. According to historians, this ruler is the same as the Chola ruler Ti-hua-kialo(identified with Kulottunga) mentioned in the Song annals and who sent an embasssy to China. According to Tan Yeok Song, the editor of the Sri Vijayan inscription of Canton, Kulottunga stayed in Kadaram after the naval expedition of 1067 A.D and reinstalled its king before returning to South India to occupy the throne.
Trade relations and cultural contacts established during the reigns of Rajaraja Chola and Rajendra Chola I seem to have been actively maintained by Kulottunga and his successors. In 1089, the ruler of Sri Vijaya sent two ambassadors to Kulottunga's court requesting him to renew the old grants to the Buddhist Vihara(Chulamani Vihara) in Nagapattinam that was built during the period of Rajaraja Chola I.
Extent of the Empire
The Chola kingdom remained formidable under Kulottunga in his forty-fifth regnal year. Except for the loose hold over Lanka, the rest of the empire remained intact. The boundary between the Cholas and the Western Chalukyas was as always the Tungabhadra river. The hold over Vengi was quite firm and Dakkina Kosala(south-west Kalinga) and some parts of Kalinga(proper) including the capital Kalinganagara, the modern Mukhalingam in the Ganjam district was under the Chola rule.
Towards the end of his reign, when his son Vikrama Chola, the viceroy of Vengi left south for his coronation, the northern half of the Vengi kingdom if not the whole of it seems to have slipped from his hands and gone to the Western Chalukyan empire under Vikramaditya VI According to some historians, during this period, Kulottunga also lost the province of Gangavadi to Hoysala Vishnuvardhana who attacked and defeated the Chola Viceroy Adigaiman, the controller of Kongu and Kannada country.
Kulottunga's capital was Gangaikondacholapuram. Kanchi was next in importance and had a palace and an abhisheka mandapam from where the king issued many of his charters. The king's inscriptions speak of a highly organized form of fiscal and local administration. He carried out a massive land survey which formed the basis for taxation He promoted free trade by abolishing tolls or transit duties and came to be known as Sungamtavirrton, that is one who abolished tolls. He did away with the old system of appointing Chola-Pandya viceroys in the southern territories and instead built military cantonments that were in charge of protecting his interests and collecting tribute but did not interfere with the internal administration of the conquered territories, a responsibility which he left to the native chiefs and feudatories.
Kulottunga was ably assisted in his campaigns and internal administration by his officials some of whom were; Karunakara Tondaiman described as the chief munaiyar, minister and warrior of Abhaya; Solakon who distinguished himself in the campaigns in the west against the Kongas, Gangas and Mahrattas; the Brahmin Kannan of great fortress; Vanan(possibly the Bana Vanakovaraiyan also called Suttamallan mudikondan) who was dexterous in the use of his beautiful bow in battle; the general Naralokaviran alias Kalingar-kon who distinguished himself in the Pandya wars; Kadava the king of Venad(south Travancore); Vailava the lord of Chedi (Malayaman) country; Senapati (General) Anantapala; the Irungovel chieftain, Adavallan Gangaikonda Cholan alias Irungolan; the royal secretary (Tirumandira-olai) Arumoli-Vilupparaiyar; and the accountant Arumoli-Porkari.  Gonka I, a vassal from the Velanati Chodas family was greatly responsible for the political stability of the Chola power in the Vengi region. In appreciation of his services Emperor Kulottunga Chola I conferred on Gonka I the lordship over 6000 villages on the southern bank of the Krishna River.
Kulottunga's chief queen was Dinachintamani, others being Elisaivallabhi and Tyagavalli. Copper-plate grants state that Kulottunga married Madurantaki, the daughter of Rajendradeva of the Solar race and had by her seven sons. According to some historians she is identical with Dinachintamani. She seems to have died sometime before the thirtieth year of Kulottunga. Thyagavalli took the place of the chief queen upon Dinachintamani's demise,. Kalingathupparani mentions Tyagavalli together with Elisai Vallabhi (also known as Elulagudayal). It also states that Thyagavalli enjoyed equal authority with the king. Solakulavalliyār, another queen of his is also mentioned in inscriptions. She was instrumental in renewing the grant of Anaimangalam in favour of the Chulamani Vihara at Nagapattinam. He also seems to have married a Pallava princess called Kadavan-Mahadevi. Epigraphs mention three of his sons Rajaraja Chodaganga, Vira Chola and Vikrama Chola of which Rajaraja was the eldest.
The empire under Kulottunga Chola I was secular in nature and the king encouraged both Saivism and Vaishnavism.. He and his family members continued to make endowments to the Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram He was tolerant towards other religions like Buddhism and renewed the grants made to the Chulamani Vihanra, the Buddhist monastery at Nagapattinam.
Historians dispute the identification of Krimikanta Chola, the persecutor of Vaishnavite acharya Ramanuja with Kulottunga Chola I as Ramanuja is said to have returned to the Chola kingdom from Hoysala Vishnuvardhana's court after an exile of 12 years(upon the Chola king's death) whereas Kulottunga Chola ruled for 52 years. Some scholars are of the opinion that Kulottunga was secular through his early and middle years and persecuted Vaishnavites towards the end of his reign, succumbing to Saivite pressure.. There is no reason to believe this argument for we have him making donations to Vishnu shrines in the latter part of his reign. For example, he visited the Ulagalandaperumal temple in Kanchipuram with his two queens, Tribuhavanamudaiyal and Solkulavalli and made benefactions in the 40th year of his reign.
Art and Architecture
Kulottunga was a patron of arts and architecture. The poet-laureate Jayamkondar is said to have adorned his court. The composition of the famous poem Kalingathuparani is attributed to him. Some scholars consider the poet Kambar to be a contemporary of Kulottunga I and the Ramavataram is said to have been composed during his rule. Others place him during the reign of Kulottunga Chola II or III. Likewise a few believe that Ottakoothar, the author of the three Ulas namely the Kulothunga Cholan Ula, Vikraman Chola Ula and Rajaraja Cholan Ula, lived during his reign while others place him during the reign of his successors viz. Vikrama Chola, Kulottunga II and Rajaraja Chola II.
The construction of the Amritaghateswarar Shiva temple in Melakadambur is attributed to the reign of Kulottunga Chola I. It is called as Karakkoil and is perhaps the earliest shrine built in the shape of a chariot with wheels and drawn by spirited horses. The temple contains an inscription of the king dated in the 43rd year of his reign, corresponding to 1113 During his time, Kulottunga Chozhapuram, now called Thungapuram, was a site of intense religious activity. We have streets prised equivalent to Madurai (square shape), hence it is called as Siru Madurai. He constructed two temples here, one called Sokkanathar temple for Lord Siva and the other a Vishnu shrine called Lord Vinava Perumal Temple or Varadaraja perumal temple.
Kulottunga I was also on friendly terms with the Gahadval Kings of central India who were very artistic builders of temples and had Lord Surya as their tutelary deity. Later, inspired by his visits to the Gahadvala Kingdom, Kulottunga I would build several temples dedicated to the Sun God, especially the Suryanar Temples at Pudukkottai and Nagapattinam.
Kulottunga's inscriptions mostly begin with the introduction pugal madu vilanga or pugal sulnda punari. The former gives details about his conquest over Cheras, Pandyas and Vikramaditya VI while the latter is even more detailed and includes the details of his early life, viz., his heroics in Chakrakotta and Vayiragram and how he came about to wear the excellent crown of jewels of the Chola country. An inscription from Kanchi beginning with the introduction Pugal madu mentions his birth star as Pusya. Another inscription of the king from the Tripurantakesvara temple in Chingleput district mentions the resale of some lands that were bought in the second year of Udaiyar Virarajendradeva.
In his early years, the king styles himself as Rajakesarivarman alias Rajendracholadeva. We have an inscription of the king from Kolar dated in the second year of his reign. He is called Rajakesarivarman alias Rajendra Chola deva and it mentions his heroics in Sakkarakottam and Vayiragaram. It states that an officer of the king called Virasikhamani Muvendavelar inspected a temple in Kuvalala nadu, a district of Vijayarajendra-mandalam and appointed a committee. There is another inscription from the Adhipurisvara temple in Tiruvorriyur dated in the third year of his reign where he is styled as Rajakesarivarman alias Rajendracholadeva. It states that Muvendavelar, an officer of the king, and a native of Aridayamangalam in Mudichonadu, a sub-division of Kalyanapuramkonda-sola-valanadu bought some lands and donated them for feeding a Brahmana and a Sivayogin. The names Vijayarajendra-mandalam and Kalyanapuramgonda-sola-valanadu are significant and evidently named after Kulottunga's predecessor Rajadhiraja Chola I who sacked the Western Chalukya capital Kalyanapuram towards the end of his reign and assumed the title Vijayarajendra after performing the Virabhiseka(anointment of heroes).
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