The Chola king beheaded by Vira Pandya and its connection with Madhurantaka - V
by Jayasree Saranathan on 16 Apr 2023 0 Comment

Vira Pandya who was beheaded by Aditya II was known to have beheaded a Chola king by which he came to hold a title “Solan Thalai-konda Vira Pandyan”. The Ambasamudram inscription of Vira Pandya identifies him as Solan Thalai Konda Vira Pandyan. Another name Cholantaka Brahmaraya appears in the same inscription indicating his role in ending the life of a Chola. 


Vira Pandya was with this title for 13 years. His total period of reign was for 20 years. His end having been brought out by Aditya II, it is understood that 13 years before that, he killed a Chola king. A surprise element is that he didn’t choose to mention the name of the Chola king he beheaded, but Aditya chose to specify his name in his title as, “Vira Pandyan thali Konda”.


One historian suggested that Para?taka I was beheaded by him.[i] If it is true, then Vira Pandya could have certainly mentioned his name in his title because Para?taka I was a prized catch. Para?taka I was a terror to the Pandya-s of his time. He killed them, burnt Madurai, pursued the fleeing Pandya-s to Simhala and won the Simhalese thereby getting a title “Simhalantaka”. He also held a title “Iru-mudi Chola,” meaning, the one held two crowns – his own Chola crown and the Pandya crown.


His victory over the Pandya-s and Simhala-s is mentioned by his son, Gandraraditya in his Tamil composition called Tiruvisaippa (verse 8). He referred to his father’s victory over Thennan country (Pandya country) and Elam (Simhala) and hailed his father as the king of Kozhi (Uraiyur) and the one having the dynastic title, Sembian. Uraiyur was the Chola-capital before Tanjore was made the capital by Vijayalaya.


By identifying himself in the last verse as the king of Uraiyur (Kozhi) and also the King of Tanjore, Gandaraditta implied his previous kingship at Uraiyur when he was a junior king and his later elevation as the King of kings with the base at Tanjore. This indicates that he composed these verses when he was the supreme king of the Chola country. (verse10)


With the Pandya-s remaining subdued during the reign of Para?taka I, there is no scope to say that he fell a victim to Vira Pandya. So, who else fell to the sword of Vira Pa??ya?


This needs to be answered to know whether Aditya II deliberately pursued Vira Pandya to avenge the ignominious death of a Chola predecessor. While Leyden plates of Rajaraja I state that “He, the light of the family of Manu, while yet a boy played sportively in battle with Vira Pandya, as a lion’s cub with a huge elephant wild with passion (rut) and confident of his strength”,[ii] the Tiruvalangadu plates of Rajendra I state that he brought the head of Vira Pandya to his capital to be held on a lofty pillar. “Having deposited in his (capital) town the lofty pillar of victory (viz.,) the head of the Pandya king.”[iii]


Was Vira Pandya killed in retaliation of a former feud?


Para?taka I and his sons


Para?taka I was followed by his three sons to the throne, one by one. They were Rajaditya, Gandraraditya and Arindama.[iv] Here we must take note of the fact that son of the son didn’t become the king. Instead, the brothers had followed each other to the crown. The same occurred two generations later when three (even four) sons of Rajendra I took to the throne one after another, thereby proving the version of Virarajendra that only those who excelled in the battlefield were given kingship. 


Para?taka-I had another son, Uttamasili whose name appeared in the 24th and 26th year of Para?taka I. By the presence of a Caturvedi Mangalam in his name (Uttamasili Caturvedi Mangalam) and a channel (Uttamasili Vaykkal), there is scope to say that he ran kingship for some time, but no inscriptions are found so far in support of it. This is being expressed to check if he was the Chola king beheaded by Vira Pandya. But it seems unlikely since four kings appeared after Para?taka I, by the time Aditya II came up and took the head of Vira Pandya. The thirteen-year period of the title for Vira Pandya appears shorter compared to the presence of four kings coming before his death.


Rajaditya died on his elephant at Takkolam war


Of the three sons of Para?taka I, Rajaditya succeeded him to the throne. That he ascended the throne is being made out by the Leyden plates.[v] Unfortunately he didn’t live long as he was killed in a war with the Rashtrakuta-s during his 2nd regnal year according to Sholapuram inscription.[vi] He died on his elephant while fighting with the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III (Krishnaraja) at Takkolam. The details of that death are given in Atakur inscription along with the year name and Shaka year number.[vii]


The year name was Saumya and 872 Shaka years were over by then. This corresponds to CE 950. It could be 949 also, because the year Saumya is spread between 949 and 950 (Any Hindu year of the Kali Yuga is spread in between two consecutive Gregorian years). End of Rajaditya means the third ruler was chosen at that date.


The line-up as per Leyden grants was this:




All the three were brothers (sons of Para?taka I).


When Rajaditya died, Gandraraditya was already a junior ruler, perhaps based at Uraiyur. He was elevated as the supreme ruler at Tanjore while Arindama was made the new ruler.

Rajaditya’s death year = Arindama’s accession year = CE 950.


Recalling Aditya II’s death year CE 977, we find a gap of 27 years, within which Gandraraditya, Arindama and his son Sundara Chola ascended the Tanjore throne. For the current topic of identifying the Chola king killed by Vira Pandya, we can say for sure that Rajaditya was not the king beheaded by Vira Pandya!


Gandraraditya went towards west


By the time of Gandraraditya, the Chola country must have shrunk, that is, lost some of its dominions. This is known from Siddhalingamadam inscription of South Arcot district dated in the 5th year of Krishna’s reign stating that he conquered Kanci and Tanjore. Sholapuram inscription of 949-50 states that Krishna III entered Thondai Mandalam after piercing Rajaditya.[viii] Further he marched towards Rameshwaram and even planted a creeper there in his name. He held a title “Thanjai Konda” (one who conquered Tanjore), subdued the Pandya-s and the Chera-s and exacted tributes from the Simhalese.


This is totally in contrast to the version of Tiruvalangadu inscriptions that state that Rajaditya won the war with Krishnaraja and went to heaven. “His (Parantaka’s) son Rajaditya defeated Krishnaraja in battle and went to heaven.”[ix] The Atakur inscriptions of Krishnaraja clearly states that there was no direct fight between Rajaditya and Krishnaraja but only with Butuga, his vassal king who engaged him in a direct fight and killed him. Butuga was rewarded well for that act. Atakur inscriptions and many other inscriptions stating the southern march of Krishnaraja do reveal that the Rashtrakuta army intruded as far as Tanjore and beyond.


Through all this time, Gandraraditya was the king! One can imagine the low suffered by the Chola-s of this period but the Chola records are absolutely silent about the disturbance at that time. There is no inscription attributed to Gandraraditya as fighting with anyone.


Not much is available about Gandraraditya’s military expeditions. There have been mixed versions about him, claiming him to be the conqueror of Pandya-s which cannot be true. Leyden plates mention that he founded a village in his name on the banks of the river Kaviri and produced a son named Madhurantaka.


He however holds a title “Merkey e?undaru?ina Devar’![x] This means he ascended to higher realms in the West or he died in the west! There was no other description of how he died. The Pandya-s were in the hiding in the Western Ghats at that time!


Arindama died at A??ur


Following the death of Gandraraditya, his younger brother Arindama, also known as Ari?jaya, became the supreme ruler. From an inscription found in a Siva temple in Melpadi village in Vellore district, we learn that Rajaraja I raised this temple named ‘Arinjiswara’ as a Pa??ippadai to his grandfather Arindama, who was known as ‘A??ur thunjiya Devar’ (one who died at A??ur). A??ur means a village or town near a river. It was near Melpadi which is close to River Pennar.


Melpadi is in between Chalukya and Chola domains. Its closeness to Takkolam indicates that Arindama tried to push back Krishnaraja’s Rashtrakuta forces. The Rashtrakuta presence in the Chola country that started during post-Rajaditya period seemed to have been gradually driven out by the time of Arindama. He might have succeeded in that endeavour but lost his life in the process. His fall was not at Pandyan hand but by the Rashtrakuta-s.


Sundara Chola died in the golden palace at Kanci


Following Arindama’s death, his son Sundara Chola with the titular name Para?taka II became the ruler at Tanjore. At the same time his son, Aditya II, was given kingship. Sundara Chola played an important role in making the Chola empire powerful again. Right from the beginning of his reign, Sundara Chola seemed to be engaged in crushing the Pandya-s.


His focus on the south, on the Pandya-s right from the beginning, when read along with the absence of military expeditions in the north to check the Rashtrakuta-s following the death of his father Arindama at A??ur, goes to show that the northern borders were secured by his time and only the southern Pandya-s continued to be his headache. His success against the Pandyan-s is revealed by his title “Pandyanaic-Cu?am-i?akkina” (one who made Pandya feverish).


His battle at Cevur against the Pandya-s described in Karandai plates was fierce; caused Vira Pandya to flee and take refuge at the peaks of the Western Ghats. From the 16th year record of Uttama Chola describing him as the Destroyer of Madurai, it appears that Madhurantaka too participated in this war.  Aditya II had also fought this battle along with his father. It is opined that twice Vira Pandya was fought against. In the second time, Aditya seemed to have pursued Vira Pandya on the hills of the West, caught him and brought back his severed head as a symbol of victory to his capital.


Nilakanta Sastri thinks ‘taking the head’ need not necessarily mean decapitation, but there is no way to assume that decapitation was reported when it did not happen. Not all deaths in the war field are of same nature. Rajaditya was stabbed by Butuga who climbed on his elephant and stabbed him from close quarters. Arindama must have faced a hit on his body and died in the battlefield. Sundara Chola died in the golden palace, implying he was ailing for some time. How the end came is expressed in the way it happened.  So, ‘taking the head’ means just that – cutting off the head.


The other expressions that Sastri cites to make his point, have their own meanings. For example, “Pandyanai muditthalai kondaru?iya” of Kulottu?ga III means ending the Pandyan supremacy and not cutting of his head. Similarly keeping the foot on the head is not the same as taking the head.[xii] Anbil plates twice mention about Sundara Chola’s feet touching the crest of kings.[xiii] But, Aditya II had taken the head of Vira Pandya, in what appears to be an act of revenge on Vira Pandya for having taken the head of a Chola king. The clear mention in the Tiruvalangadu plates of bringing the head of Vira Pandya to the capital city to be held high on a pillar is a vengeful act of triumph over an enemy who caused a predecessor Chola king lose his head at his hand.


Who was he?


It was not Rajaditya who was killed by Butuga. It was not Arindama who was killed at A??ur in the war against Rashtrakuta-s. And this leaves Gandraraditya as the only one who lost his life in what was remembered as ‘Merkey e?undaru?ina Devar’ (one who ascended in the West).


Gandraraditya decapitated by Vira Pandya  


Gandraraditya ascended the throne of Tanjore at the most difficult time of Krishnaraja making inroads in the Chola country. Enmity with the Pandyan-s continued from his father’s times. His father Para?taka I had the distinction of being called as “Madhuraiyum Elamum Konda Parakesarivarman” which Gandraraditya recognised in his Tamil composition. Pandyan was not the only enemy. His cohorts, the king of Elam and of Chera land also stood with him. The Chola-s had to deal with all the three at the same time. 


Gandraraditya must have pursued Vira Pandya who was already on the run to escape Krishnaraja. The peaks of the Western Ghats must have provided Vira Pandya a good hideout, something which was expressed in the Karandai plates while describing the battle at Cevur when he was pursued by Aditya II. In that expedition, Gandraraditya must have been trapped by the Pandyan forces and lost his head in the fighting that ensued. The presence of an official in the Ambasamudram inscription as “Cholantaka Brahmaraya” seems to indicate that he carried out the act. As a king, Vira Pandya became entitled to call himself as “Solan Thalai Konda.” (one who took away the head of a Chola king)


The king taking up the title for deeds not done by him was not new. To cite some examples, the Chera King Se?gu??uvan who boasted of having engraved his insignia on the Himalayan peak, did not reach the Himalayas; he stayed on the banks of the river Ganga. Only his army went up to the Himalayas to engrave the emblem. Similarly, Kulottu?ga I who was eulogised in a text “Kali?gatthu Bharani” as having won the Kalinga war, did not take part in the war at all. His deputy won the war but the title came to the king.


If Vira Pandya had killed Gandraraditya, it is highly probable that he called himself as “Gandaradittan Thalai Konda Vira Pandyan.” (Vira Pandya who took the head of Gandraraditya). Mere mention of “Solan-Thalai Konda” seems to convey that he preferred a modest title for himself, which would be the case if the act was done by someone else, in this context most probably by Cholantaka Brahmaraya.


The epithet “Merkey E?undaru?ina Devar” to Gandraraditya seems to imply that the Chola forces could not get back his body. It was as though he went to the West and left from there to the other world, never to return. If he was killed in an open battle for everyone to see, he would have earned the name “…Thunjiya Gandraraditya” (Gandraraditya who died in such and such place) and a Pa??ippadai (memorial) could have been raised at the place of death. There are no such things for Gandraraditya.


His death must have shocked the Chola dynasty which was not yet recovered from the loss of Rajaditya and the intrusion of Krishnaraja. Sundara Chola got kingship at the death of Gandraraditya. One can imagine the anger and outrage running in Sundara Chola at that time. He was joined by his young son Aditya II whom the Leyden plates recognise as a boy who “played sportively in the battle with Vira Pandya.”[xiv]


Madhurantaka was also around as a young prince and might have participated in the A??ur war along with his uncle Arindama. He fought the war against the Pandyan-s – a war he must have emotionally fought – and earned the name, ‘Destroyer of Madurai’. Without exhibiting some valorous activity, Madhurantaka could not have got kingship when Sundara Chola died.


Madhurantaka seemed to have enjoyed patronage of the royal family


Losing his father, a very pious person, at a very young age in a gruesome way at the hands of the enemy, Madhurantaka must have earned extra care from all the family members. Even while Sundara Chola was the king, Madhurantaka seemed to have enjoyed the status of a king though Aditya II was there as a successor of Sundara Chola.


An inscription in the pillar of the Adhipurisvara temple at Tiruvorriyur written in the 5th year of ‘Madurai Konda Rajakesarivarman’ refers to a donor who happened to be a Noble, accompanying “Udaiyar Uttama Chola” to the temple.[xv] Only Sundara Chola held the title Rajakesari and was also known to have conquered Madurai. In contrast, Aditya was a Parakesari. In the opinion of historians, Gandraraditya was the “Madurai Konda Rajakesarivarman” which is not substantiated by any inscription. He was not at all known to have won any war.


Moreover, Uttama Chola Madhurantaka, his son accompanying him with the royal title “Udaiyar” in his 5th year rules out any scope to link Gandraraditya with this title. Madhurantaka was too young to get that title and there were three kings before him to get his kingship.


Moreover, his father Para?taka I who was a Parakesari, held the title, “Madurai Konda Kopparakesari”. After him, only Sundara Chola scored victory over Pandyan-s by destroying Madurai. And he was a Rajakesari. Therefore, he stands a greater chance to be called as “Madurai Konda Rajakesarivarman.” It makes sense to have Udaiyar Uttama Chola leading regnal life while Sundara Chola was ruling.


The above inscription was discussed by Nilakanta Sastri who identified Madurai Konda Rajakesari with Sundara Chola. He didn’t think that Aditya II ascended the throne but believed that Uttama Chola succeeded Sundara Chola. His view is produced below from his book ‘Colas’.


Author Kalki coming from the same time period of historians like Nilakanta Sastri towed the popular version of that period that didn’t recognise accession of Aditya II. They all believed that Aditya II predeceased Sundara Chola, which is contrary to what is stated in Tiruvalangadu and Leyden plates. Then how long Aditya II lived?



[i] A.S. Ramanatha Ayyar, “Ambasamudram inscription of Solan-ralai konda Vira-Pandya” p. 38.

[ii] Verse 57

[iii] Verse 68, Tiruvalangadu cooper plate inscriptions.

[iv] Verses 54 and 55 “Tiruvalangadu copper plates”

[v] Verse 41 “was the lord of the earth”

Leyden plates

[vi] Epigraphia Indica Vol 15, p 52

[vii] Epigraphia Indica Vol 6, p.55

[viii] “Rashtakutas and their times”  (1934) by Altekar A S

[ix] Verse 54 “Tiruvalangadu copper plates”

[x] Fn, p. 38, Epigraphia Indica Vol, XXV, No. 540 of the Madras Epigraphical Collection for 1920

[xi] Picture source:

[xii] KA Nilakanta Sastri, ‘Colas’, p.143

[xiii] Verse 27, 31, Anbil plates of Sundara Chola – Epigraphic Indica XV, p.44

[xiv] Verse 57



(To be continued…)



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