The basic question to solve the issues around Ponniyin Selvan events – III
by Jayasree Saranathan on 14 Apr 2023 0 Comment

Having known the two revelations (overlapping years and kingship not as birth right), let us now pick out the right question(s) to solve the mysteries of the Ponniyin Selvan period. The questions arise from two inscriptions that offer dates related to two kings, Uttama Chola (Madhurantaka) and Rajaraja I (Arulmozhivarman). Let us examine them one by one.


The inscription on the date of Madhurantaka (Uttama) Chola


There exists an inscription at Tiruvidaimarudur of the 13th regnal year of Madhurantaka who was also known as Uttama Chola, stating the Kali year of that time. Since Uttama Chola’s inscriptions are available till his 16th regnal year, which defines the duration of his rule, we are able to exactly pinpoint the date of accession and death of Uttama Chola.[i]


Kali year 4083 was running on his 13th year which corresponds to 982 of the Common Era (Kali 4083 minus 3101 BCE = 982). As per this inscription, Madhurantaka’s 13th year = CE 982. Therefore his 1st year = CE 970 (982 minus12). His 16th year (year of death) = CE 985. Based on this, historians marked the accession of Arulmozhivarman alias Rajaraja I on CE 985.


There is yet another inscription attributable to Uttama Chola issued on his 4th year, giving more date features that help us to derive the date of that inscription.[ii] Let us look at it for cross-checking the dates of Uttama Chola from Tiruvidaimarudur inscription.


This record found on the wall of Nagesvaraswamin temple at Kumbakonam states that this was issued on the 4th regnal year of the king when Magha was the star of the day which corresponded to a Thursday and Navami tithi in the month of Mesha. This exactly fitted with 27th April, 975. The year name was Yuva which spread between 975-976.


Regnal years are counted from the day of accession. Since the year name is also taken in account[iii] the 4th year before the Yuva-year was the 1st year, i.e., year of accession. It was Angirasa, which spanned between 972-973. On comparing with the Tiruvidaimarudur inscription, this is one year later than what is derived from the Tiruvidaimarudur inscription assuming the Kali years (4083) in that inscription referred to completed years and it was lost in the damaged part. Since the date features of Kumbakonam inscription tally well with the year 975, it leads to the accession year as 972-973 only. The only feature which can make this wrong is a scribal error in stating the regnal year of the king. The inscription says it was the 4th year. Suppose it was the 5th year, which the engraver had wrongly chiseled as 4, then Tiruvidaimarudur reference is true. 


We are more or less sure about the dates derived by comparing two inscriptions (Tiruvidaimarudur and Kumbakonam). Since both Tiruvalangadu plates and Leyden plates state that Madhurantaka ascended the throne upon the death of Aditya II, it is possible to derive the year of Aditya’s death.


The sequence of years as per the current opinion is as follows:

Death of Aditya II: CE 970.

Accession of Madhurantaka (Uttama Chola): CE 970.

Death of Uttama Chola: CE 985.

Accession of Arulmozhivarman (Rajaraja I): CE 985.

This shows a gap of 16 years between Aditya II and Rajaraja I.

Udayarkudi inscription on the 2nd year of Rajaraja I.


We have another inscription of crucial importance that gives the year of Rajaraja I stating the punishment given to the conspirators of Aditya's murder. The Udayarkudi inscription issued on the 2nd year of Rajaraja I describes the action taken on the killers of Aditya II by confiscating the lands of Ravidasa Kramavitthan, his son and his mother, besides the properties of the entire family of Kramavitthan.


As per the current view on the dates shown above, the 2nd year of Rajaraja I was CE 986. Looking at the dates, Aditya II must have died in CE 970 which means the punishment to the killers of his brother, Aditya II, was given only 17 years after the dastardly killing!


So, the basic question that indicates that there is something odd in the events of Ponniyin Selvan, can be spotted now:

-       Why was there such a huge gap of 17 years between the murder and the delivery of punishment?


This raises some allied questions too.

-       Why had Uttama Chola not done anything to punish the killers all through his 16 years of reign?

-       Why it needed a Rajaraja, the own brother of Aditya to punish the killers? Why did it happen only after the brother of Aditya ascended the throne?

-       Does it mean the killers and conspirators could not be identified throughout the 16-year reign of Uttama Chola?

-       Was Chola Neeti defunct during the 16-year period? Where is the evidence to say that Chola Neeti was that bad during Uttama Chola’s reign while he was known to have shown his ‘wrath in the killing of enemies’ as per Tiruvalangadu plates.[iv] 

-       Uttama Chola was not an ordinary king. The earliest gold coin of the Chola-s to be available now, was issued by Uttama Chola, indicating prosperity of his times. How could such an able king fail to nab the culprits and bring justice in time? These questions drive me to check the date of whatever is available of the Chola-s of that time. Fortunately, Udayarkudi inscription gives the date features of the day of issue of the inscription:

“It was Mesha month (or Chi??irai), Sunday and the star was Purattadhi (Purva Bhadrapada).”


The year being the 2nd regnal year of Rajaraja I, these features must be present together in the year 986-87 CE – the 2nd year from the (historians’) consensus year of accession of Rajaraja I at 985 CE.


But these features were not present in the 2nd year (986 from the current opinion) or the year after (987). Purva Bhadrapada was present on a Thursday in CE 986 and on a Tuesday in CE 987. It was not a Sunday.


This shows that Rajaraja did not ascend the throne on CE 985 as believed by all historians till date. It shows that our understanding of the regnal years of these kings is totally WRONG.


However, there are historians who claim that the decree could have been passed on the 2nd year of Rajaraja II and the date features were those of the actual time of execution of the decree. However, the wordings of the inscription shows that the decree was carried out on the 2nd year of Rajaraja I in the month of Chi??irai on a Sunday when Purva Bhadrapada was running. The negotiations on the sale of the land could have taken place before this date. But it was formalised or signed in the presence of God on the said date in the 2nd year of Rajaraja I.


Moreover, any justification for the non-existence of the date features on what the historians think as the 2nd year of Rajaraja I does not answer the main question - why was there a 17-year gap?




[ii] SII, Vol 3. No. 129

[iii] ‘Ramanuja Itihasa’, p. 168, 169

[iv] Verse 71: “Applying (his) mind to (the devotion of) Sarva (Siva), utilizing (his) wealth in the act of performing His worship, (employing) all (his) retinue in the construction of houses (i.e., temples) for Him, and directing (his) subjects to (regularly) perform His festive processions, (showing his) wrath (only) in the killing of enemies and (distributing his) riches among virtuous Brahmanas, that king (Madhurantaka) bore on (his) board shoulder, the (weight of the) earth.”


(To be continued…)



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