Who killed Aditya Karikala: Digging out the true history – I
by Jayasree Saranathan on 09 Apr 2023 0 Comment

The historical fiction of Ponniyin Selvan, written by the famous author Kalki and made into a movie, differs in several ways from the original history of the characters portrayed. The true history of that period is being brought out in a short series by presenting certain questions and seeking answers for them from the inscriptions and derivations from certain inscriptions.


Let me first list out the most important questions:


1] Who killed Aditya Karikala (also known as Aditya II)?


2] A king dying in battle is a common occurrence, but getting killed in his own country when he was in power indicates a strong motive and a network to carry out the act. What was the motive and who carried out such an act?


3] In the previous question, I have written that the king was in power. This is contrary to the opinion of many people and historians that Aditya II predeceased his father. Even according to the Ponniyin Selvan novel, his father Sundara Chola (also known as Para?taka II) was alive while Aditya II was killed. But as per Tiruvalangadu inscriptions, Sundara Chola did not live to see the death of his son, Aditya II. He died, following which Aditya II ascended the throne.[i] Aditya II  was killed only while he was ruling as king.


4] Why did Madhurantaka (his equivalent, Sendhan Amudhan of Ponniyin Selvan is fictional) ascend the throne after his death? Did he hatch a conspiracy to get the throne? Are the historians right in suspecting that he threatened a civil war?


5] If he conspired, why did he make Arulmozhi Varman (Rajaraja I) his heir-apparent[ii] soon after he came to the throne and not make his own lineage follow him? There is evidence that his own son Madhurantakan Gandaradittan worked under Rajaraja I.[iii] If Madhurantaka was really greedy for the throne, this could not have happened. Are we inexpediently casting aspersions on Madhurantaka? Kalki’s version of ‘sacrifice’ is not supported by Tiruvalangadu inscriptions which say that it was Madhurantaka who made Arulmozhi the next heir to the throne.


6] From the Udayarkudi inscription we come to know that a family of Brahmins living in what is called Parppana cheri had committed betrayal in the death of the king. They all belonged to a single family of brothers, their parents, their children, grandchildren and those families in marital relationship with them. Of the brothers, one held a title ‘Kramavitthan’, earned by having mastered the Krama method of reciting Vedas.


The landed property of this person (Kramavitthan, known as Revadasa or Ravidasa Kramavitthan), that of his son and his mother were confiscated and sold to raise money which was used for the temple. One of the brothers of Kramavitthan held the title of an officer in the government as ‘Irumudi Chola Brahmadhirayan’. The possessions of all the people of this huge but single family were confiscated. What could have been the role of the entire family in the death of the king?  


7] What punishment was given to them? It appears that apart from taking away their possessions and land holdings, no punishment was given to them. The text of the inscription makes us think that they were ex-communicated or banished. Why?


8] It is wrong to say that they were spared of a jail term or punishment since they were Brahmins, for, we come across other inscriptions of the Chola period on punishments given to Brahmins for stealing temple gold and misappropriating the donations given to the temple.


For example, Madhurantaka Gandaraditta, (mentioned in Q-5 above), son of Madhurantaka alias Uttama Chola, while inspecting Bilvanateshwara temple of Tiruvallam found out misappropriation of the temple property by the Sivabrahmins and fined them.[iv] There are few other such instances where erring Brahmins were punished, but this writer had not yet come across murder charge on a Brahmin.


In fact, the Brahmins were closely watched by the community for upholding high moral standards. A pillar inscription in a temple in Nandavaram in Kurnool district denied a Brahmin family the right to be in the Agrahara and conduct Vedic rites. The mistake they did was to have asked for a dowry for the marriage of their daughter. They were reinstated only after they gave an undertaking that they would not demand dowry.[v] Such was the strict vigil by the surrounding community on the personal life and discipline of the Brahmins.


This incident happened more recently, say, in the Shaka year 1492 (1570 CE). Then imagine the situation in the 10th century. It was unthinkable for a Brahmin, that too a Vedic person and his entire family, to have committed a crime of conspiring and killing a mighty Chola King – a King who ‘took the head of Vira Pandya’. Author Kalki treated them as ‘Abatthudaviga?’ (those who help in danger) of Vira Pandya.


Such persons must have been trained in warfare and not leading the life of a Kramavitthan, old enough to have a son who had landed property in his name and leading a settled life in a temple town with a huge joint family. Confiscation of property and banishment shows that the real killers were someone else. This angle also must be examined while going through the inputs on the killers.


Seeking answers for these questions we begin our search with the right questions that can lead us to the path of truth. To explain what I mean by ‘right questions’, let me give two examples from two of my previous researches.


Mahabharata question


For validating the year of the Mahabharata (my book ‘Mahabharata 3136 BCE’), what intrigued me most was the way Bhi?ma failed to judge the arrival of Uttaraya?a (winter solstice) to lay down his life. He was adept in calculating Time which he exhibited by explaining how the Pandava-s over stayed in exile and did not reveal themselves earlier. He was able to convince the Kaurava-s by his knowledge of Time. Such a person fell down thinking that Uttaraya?a was around the corner while it was actually 58 days away. A mis-calculation by a few days or a week is pardonable but by nearly two months is terrible. Bhi?ma committing such blunder is impossible, but that he had, cautioned me that I must look for clues on abrupt change in time and I did find such verses that expressed abnormal change in time just before the Mahabharata war. That solved many puzzles around the timing of the war.


Ramanuja question


My other book ‘Ramanuja Itihasa’ too was the result of an odd question on the persecution of Acarya Ramanuja. Almost all Vai??avite chronicles have stated that Ramanuja could not return to Srirangam for more than three decades, due to the fear of a Chola king whose name was not told even by his descendants, but only recognized by a terrible disease he suffered, which was thought to be the result of his ill-will towards him. The king was Krimika??ha Chola who, in the opinion of historians, was killed in a riot following the exile of Ramanuja. His untimely death paved the way for Kulottu?ga I to ascend the Chola throne in 1070 CE according to historians.


There was nothing on record by way of inscriptions to show that a Chola king of that period (Kulottu?ga I) persecuted Ramanuja. As a result, a consensus has almost set in even among staunch Vai??avites that the traditional hagiographies on Ramanuja had exaggerated the role of the Chola King.


When I set out to find out the truth what struck me was that Ramanuja faced a situation when he was not left with any sacred to be worn on his forehead. A search for the availability of the sacred mud led him to find the Mulavar Murti of Melukote buried under an anthill. The question was why couldn’t he go back to his place at Srirangam to get it? Why couldn’t he get someone deliver it to him from the Chola country? It was unthinkable that a saint like him could not procure the sacred mud from his home town. It appeared that he was almost ex-communicated from the Chola country.


With this perturbing question in mind when I looked at the historical narrations, I found that Ramanuja left the country in 1078 CE (Kalayukti year) while the king who was supposed to have persecuted him died much earlier, in 1070 CE following the ‘riots’ triggered by the persecution. What an irony! That research brought out certain revelations which no historian has realized till date. Two specific revelations from that research help us in unravelling the mystery of the death of Aditya II.



[i] Verses: 64 to 67.


[ii] V. 70 of Tiruvalangadu Copper plate inscriptions: “Having ascertained by the marks (on his body) that Arunmoli was the lotus-eyed (Vishnu) himself, the able protector of the three worlds that had incarnated (on earth), Madhurantaka installed him in the office of heir-apparent, and (himself) bore the burden of (ruling) the earth.”


[iii] KA Nilakanta Sastri, ‘Colas’, p. 158.


[iv] ARE 218 of 1923.

[v] Annual Report on South Indian Epigraphy, 1913-5 ; p.10, No 4.


(To be continued…)


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