Rajaraja Chola (985-1014 AD): The Greatest Chola King

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So far we have discussed the early history of the Cholas in our previous article on Chola History. Here we will shed light on the marvelous career of a Chola king who expanded the territorial extent of the Cholas in all possible directions.

Image of Rajaraja Chola

The man who conquered every possible section of Southern India and established his hegemony over the newly settled territories through efficient administration was Rajaraja Chola.  

Rajaraja Chola: Rise of the Imperial Cholas

Regarded as the greatest Chola king of all time Rajaraja I the son of Sundara Chola (Parantaka II) ascended the throne around the middle of 985 and ruled till 1014 AD. He was the son of King Parantaka II and Vanavan Mahadevi and was the third child of King Parantaka II.

Rajaraja I expanded the Chola dominion in every possible direction and emerged as a paramount power in south India. He led successful campaigns against Kalinga, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. The inscription which was established during his reign mentioned his military exploits.

Territorial extent of the Cholas under Rajaraja Chola
Territorial Extent of the Cholas under Rajaraja Chola

From this inscription, the historians had also concluded about his eminent personality. Rajaraja I was a visionary leader, a patron of art and culture, an excellent administrator, and a religiously tolerant monarch. He was the first king who started the land survey and encouraged the concept of local self-government in his kingdom. He was a Shaivite and called Sivapadasekhara.

A religious tolerant monarch who erected the famous Chudamani vihara (a Buddhist vihara) at Negapatam.   He had adopted several titles due to his military prowess, administrative qualities, and patronization of art, culture, and literature.

Some of them were Mummadi Chola, Cholamartanda, Keralantaka, Telingakulakala, Arumoli, Mummadi Chola (meaning three times), etc.

He is also credited for constructing the magnificent Brihadeeswara temple at Tanjore (Thanjavur). This temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and is also a UNESCO world heritage site. It was completed around 1010 AD and is a marvelous example of Dravida architecture. In 2010 it completed its hundred years of reign.

Military Expedition of Rajaraja I

The military career of Rajaraja I is of huge significance as it not only strengthened the Chola frontiers but also resulted in securing the oceanic trade routes which boosted the Chola economy. The famous Tanjore inscription which was established during his 29th year tells about the military expedition of this great Chola king.

The first great achievement of Rajaraja I was against the neighboring kingdom of the Cheras. The Cholas defeated the Cheras in a naval battle at Trivandrum (Kandalur). The ruler of the Cheras at that time was King Bhaskara Ravivarman who reigned from 987 to 1036 AD.

From here Rajaraja I annexed the region of Udagai and Coorg regions. The next big expedition was initiated against the kingdom of Sri Lanka. In an inscription of Rajaraja I Sri Lanka is referred to as Ilamandalam. King Mahendra V was defeated and his precious capital of Anuradhapuram was destroyed resulting in the annexation of the northern part his Lanka.

 sacred shrine of Lord Shiva built by Rajaraja Chola
A Sacred shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva located in Sri Lanka. It was built by Rajaraja Chola

The Cholas made Polonnaruva their headquarters in Sri Lanka and also built a stone temple of Shiva Devale there. After this, he marched against the Western Gangas and took the territories of Gangavadi, Tadigaivadi, and Nolambavadi around 991 AD. The territories of the Gangas remained under the Cholas for decades.

He also established cordial relations with Eastern Chalukyas. He married his daughter named Kundava (Kundavi) to Vimaladitya the younger brother of Saktivarman I. This matrimonial alliance laid down the foundation of Chola and Eastern Chalukyan friendship. Another military expedition of Rajaraja I was taken against the Kalinga state.

Lastly Rajaraja I marched against the Maldives islands. The inscription tells us that the region had around 12000 ancient islands which were conquered by the Chola king. This campaign was initiated around 1000 AD and after this, he also conquered the Lakshadweep islands. The famous Tanjore inscription of him tells about the annexation of 12,000 islands.  

The reign of Rajaraja Chola can be regarded as the golden age of the Chola empire which took the entire empire to new heights and all alone.

The empire of Rajaraja I has stretched from river Tungabhadra to the whole of South India, the Maldives, the northern part of Sri Lanka, and Andhradesa. Indian history is filled with the stories of kings like Rajaraja Chola and others but still, historians have put more emphasis on focusing on the history of sultanates, Turks, and their decadent reigns.      


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