Aditya Karikala made Madhurantaka his heir-apparent – II
by Jayasree Saranathan on 10 Apr 2023 1 Comment

Two revelations help us to unravel the mystery of the death of Aditya II.


1] Overlapping rulership


The Chola kingdom of the 10th and 11th century had two kings ruling simultaneously, each having their own count of regnal years. While the senior was known as the King of kings[i] (Cakravarti) and based at the capital city of the time, the junior king was also king – but based at another city of the kingdom. This causes the overlap of the years of two kings at any time.


In the case of Kulottu?ga I, when he took over in 1070 CE, there was already a Cakravarti ruling from Gangaikonda Cholapuram. He was Adhirajendra in the 2nd year of his reign. Together they were the rulers of the Chola country for 41 years! Only on the death of Adhirajendra in 1111 CE, could Kulottu?ga-I get elevated as the Supreme ruler of the Chola country. Only then he was able to facilitate the return of Ramanuja to Srirangam.


Adhirajendra was Krimika??ha Chola who caused Ramanuja flee the country. His act was resented by his own descendants; they caused every inscription carrying his name removed. Just one inscription bearing his name and belonging to the year after he was believed to have died in the ‘riot’ escaped, and was spotted by me. Two more from Sri Lanka were left untouched because they were beyond the reach of those who planned the systematic removal of his name from history!


It is true that kings, if they wanted, could completely black-out a king of their own dynasty if the history of that king was thought to bring disrepute to the dynasty. Manu Neeti Chola was never remembered by any Chola king in their genealogy. We know about him and his death in a war in Elam only from the chronicles of Mahavamsa from Sri Lanka. The reason is not hard to guess. The dead king was eulogised by the enemy who erected a memorial for him. This was disgraceful for the Chola-s. They could lose a war but could not stand being shown sympathy or care by the enemy.


2] Kingship was not a birth right but war deeds brought kingship


Starting from Vijayalaya, when the Chola dynasty found a revival, it was sustained by many military expeditions. It required able leadership and also a number of brave leaders who could lead the war in different locations. Whoever from among the extended family was found capable, was given the opportunity to prove himself. This brought in a phase where a person did not inherit the kingdom by virtue of being the son of a king. He must have exhibited his valour in a battlefield to bequeath the kingdom.


We find this expressed by the Chola King Virarajendra in Kanyakumari inscriptions. Virarajendra was the son of Rajendra I and grandson of Rajaraja I. Three sons of Rajendra I inherited the throne one after the other – they being Rajadhiraja I, Rajendra II and Virarajendra. In between them, there was another brother, Rajamahendra, who was also given rulership. His regnal years not being seen after his 3rd year, it is deduced that his life came to an abrupt end.

He died in a riot in Kanci forcing a replacement for him. That replacement was Kulottu?ga I (explained in my book ‘Ramanuja Itihasa’).


The three brothers who came to the throne of Gangaikonda Cholapuram had many sons and grandsons as is known from Manima?galam inscription in the 29th year of Rajadhiraja I, Manima?galam inscription in the 4th year of Rajendra II and Karuvur inscription of Virarajendra.[ii] From the titles found along with their names, it is clear that each of them had done some extraordinary feat in the war field. The military expeditions within India and across the seas as far as Ka?aram were possible due to the presence of a good number of relatives actively taking part in the wars.


As remuneration, all those who brought victory were given control over certain territories of the Chola country which we learn from the inscriptions of Rajendra-II and Virarajendra Chola. Of them, the best ones were given Kingship with the counting of their regnal years starting from that date of Kingship. The Manima?galam inscription of Virarajendra makes a significant remark that he attained kingship of the country (Cakravarti, or King of Kings) by ‘the right of war deeds’ “Por-th thozhil urimai yeydhi arasu veetrirundhu”.[iii]


When the previous king died, the already anointed king (not prince) automatically got elevated as the prime king. Simultaneously he appointed the next heir who could begin his regnal years from that date. Both kings (the Prime king and the heir-king) issued grants and decrees in their own names, titles and achievements in their own regnal years.


For example, the 29th year of Rajaraja-I coincided with the 3rd regnal year of his son Rajendra Chola as per an inscription found in Tanjore which refers to a gift made by Rajaraja-I in the 3rd regnal of his son Rajendra-I.[iv] Similarly Virarajendra gained kingship in 1063 CE when his predecessor cum brother, Rajendra II was in his 12th regnal year. There was no inscription of Rajendra II after his 17th year (CE 1068), indicating that he was no more after that. That was when Virarajendra took over Supreme kingship. It happened to be Virarajendra’s 5th regnal year.


Upon this elevation, he appointed his son Adhirajendra as his successor and thus we find Adhirajendra’s regnal years starting at 1068 CE even while Virarajendra was around. Two things are revealed by this:


1] The year of accession of the next heir is the same as the year of death of the previous king of Virarajendra. That is, the death year of Rajendra II was the same as the accession year of the 2nd generation heir, Adhirajendra. This ensures continuity without hassles particularly when a king was killed in a war. The next king was automatically ready to the bear the mantle who also appointed the next in succession to him. Only the best ones got these chances.


This also seems to be family-approved choice going by the complete absence of any turmoil and smooth succession at the moment of death of a king. That such decisions had approval of the royal family was visible from the way Kulottu?ga I was given kingship with his base at Kanci, which was originally desired by Vikramaditya VI, who married the daughter of Virarajendra by a truce-pact on the banks of Thungabhadra. Kulottu?ga’s elevation was kept as a secret until Vikramaditya went back home after crowning Adhirajendra as the supreme king, as per the version of Vikramankadeva Caritam authored by Bilhana.[v]


2] The simultaneous kingship comes up with a problem in deciphering the history by posterity, i.e., us. At any time two kings will have overlapping years. That is, we will find an inscription in the 5th year of a king at one part of the country while at another there will be an inscription on the 8th year of another king of the same country (dynasty). Till now historians have been accustomed to think that one’s regnal years start only after the death of another. But it was not so during the period of 10th and 11th century starting from Para?taka I to Kulottu?ga III – the kings I have analyzed so far.


These two revelations which I gained from my research on Chola history for ‘Ramanuja Itihasa’ made me understand the mis-interpretations in Chola history of the Ponniyin Selvan period. It was very clear that Madhurantaka did not ‘covet’ the throne, nor did he force the ailing Sundara Chola to anoint him as successor at the death of Aditya II, as some historians suggested.


Sequentially, the death of Sundara Chola occurred first. His title ‘pon -maligai thunjina Devar’ shows that he died in the golden palace at Kanci. It is clearly stated in Tiruvalangadu Inscriptions that “After him, his son named Aditya ruled the earth”, thereby showing that Aditya II did not predecease his father but ascended the main throne after the death of his father.[vi] As has been the practice to anoint the successor, Madhurantaka must have been made the next heir upon the death of Sundara Chola. So, there is scope to say that Madhurantaka was anointed by none other than Aditya II.



[i] Kali?gatthu Bhara?i, Verse 257

[ii] ‘Ramanuja Itihasa’, p. 196

[iii] S.I.I.., Volume III, Part I, No.30. Vai. Sundaresa Vandaiyar, (2009), “30 kalvettugal” p. 98.

[iv] KA Nilakanta Sastri, 1955, “The Colas”, University of Madras, 2nd edition, page 194.

[v] “Ramanuja Itihasa”, Chapter 8.

[vi] Verse 67 of the Sanskrit part of Tiruvalangadu copper plate inscriptions.


(To be continued…)


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