Rajaraja I taking revenge on the assassins of Aditya Karikala - VIII
by Jayasree Saranathan on 24 Apr 2023 0 Comment

The biggest mystery of who killed Aditya Karikala and why they killed was attempted by Kalki in his novel Ponniyin Selvan. He used the names of those mentioned in the Udayarkudi record of Rajaraja’s 2nd year and treated them as the security guard (in Tamil Abatthudaviga?) of Vira Pandya to avenge the beheading of Vira Pandya by Aditya II. The novel describes their movements in secrecy due to the nature of the task, which was to kill Aditya. It is here that we find a major deviation from what we gather from the inscription that mentions their names.


As per the inscriptions, their complicity in the assassination of the king Aditya was “Droha” – which means harm. They who “harmed by killing the king”. This seems to be different from a statement “they who killed Karikal Chola”. This doubt arises as we read the inscription further. 


The assassins mentioned in Udayarkudi inscription


The record begins by stating that they owned land and were leading what appeared to be a joint family of brothers. We know that huge family system was a norm in those days. Four brothers were mentioned by name, such as, Soman… (part of name missing), his brother Ravidasan who was also known as Panjavan Brahmadhirajan, his brother Paramesvaran also known as Irumudi-ch-Chola Brahmadhirajan and another brother mentioned as “Malayanuran”.


In addition to them they had other brothers, younger to them, their children and others belonging to the families of the spouses of these children. The siblings of their parents also find mention in the inscription. The belongings of all these people were confiscated and sold at the asking rate of the day to two persons and the amount was to be handed over to the temple, “to be given to the Sthala”.


The name Malayanuran appears again in the latter part of the inscription where it is mentioned as “Malayanurana Pappana Cheri Revadaasa Kramavitthan”. This Malayanuran is the same as the one mentioned earlier, says the record (among the four brothers mentioned).


In this latter part of the record, his name appears along with the mention of his son and his mother whose name is given as Periya Nangaichcha?i. The landed property and the house belonging to all these three were sold and the proceeds were to be used for paying the daily wages (in paddy) to the carrier of water to the temple and daily food for fifteen Brahmins that must include five Siva-Yogi-s. Totally, sixteen Brahmins were to be taken care of by that amount, says the record.


Some derivations from the record:

1] The use of the money raised by selling the properties of those who turned ‘Drohi-s’ seems to convey something.


While the money raised by selling the property of the entire family of brothers and their relatives was to be used for any or unspecified need of the temple, the same is not told for the three who were singled out from the other members of this family. The amount so raised was to be specifically used for the sake of sixteen Brahmins of whom five were ascetics. This kind is segregation in the use of the money from the property of the people of this family seemed to convey that the three had a role different from what the rest of the family had. Feeding Brahmins is recommended as a way of propitiation in the astrological texts and for increasing ‘Pu?ya’ in normal times. This implies that the three had a specific role that they should propitiate by using all their property (particularly the living quarters) for the sake of Brahmins.


2] From the name ending as Kramavitthan, it is made known that he was trained in reciting Vedas, indicating that he and the others mentioned in the record were Brahmins by birth. Pappana Cheri in his name seems to refer to Parppana Cheri which appears to be a Tamil equivalent of Brahmin Agrahara. Locally, he must have been known as Malayanuran, because that is how he is addressed twice in the record. Malayanuran means - the one belonging to the Malai region – a reference to Chera lands! Why was he specifically mentioned as Malayanuran?


3] The names of two of his brothers reveal that they were government (royal) servants. One of them had a prefix “Panjavan” which is the royal name of the Pandyan-s. Panjavan appears in the names of three queens of this period of Chola-s – of Uttama Chola, Rajaraja I and Rajendra I. It is obvious that these Chola kings had their queens from the Pandyan Royal family which was possible after defeating the Pandyan-s. We had already seen in Part 4, that Madhurantaka Uttama Chola was known as the ‘Destroyer of Madurai’. In that military expedition, he must have brought a Pandya princess and married her. The retinue of the queens used to contain Vedic Brahmins to conduct their religious activities. There is scope to say that one of the brothers, Panjavan Brahmadhirajan, must have come along with her or got the name Panjavan for having worked for the Panjavan queen of Uttama Chola who was a contemporary of the murdered Aditya Karikala.


4] The name of another brother “Irumudi Chola Brahmadhirajan” indicates the priestly job of the person working under a king who held two crowns – of the Chola-s and the Pandyan-s. His original name was Paramesvaran, but Irumudi Chola Brahmadhirajan seems to indicate the rank and status he enjoyed with the king – who could have been any among the three of that time – Sundara Chola, Aditya II and Uttama Chola.


The difference in the way of use of the proceeds of the properties of Malayanuran and the other two cannot be ignored if we look at the justice system of those periods. Not all offences carried the same kind of punishment. Even lighting perpetual lamps or setting up oil-mill to supply oil to the temple lamps are found as mode of punishment in the records.


Coming to the core issue of who among them killed Aditya and why the entire family was condemned, the foremost input is that these brothers were highly unlikely to be the security guards (Abatthudaviga?) of Vira Pandya. Their location in Brahmin Agrahara and ownership of landed properties show their continued stay in that place at least by one or two generations. It is very unlikely that they (or one among them) planned to settle there after the death of Vira Pandya in CE 967 and carried out the dastardly act in CE 977 within 10 years.


However, there remains scope to believe that they were used by those who were bent on taking revenge on Aditya!


Were Brahmins used by the assassins without their knowledge?


Two of the brothers had ample chance to be at close proximity to the king. If someone wanted to use them without their knowledge, they could have befriended them in the intervening 10-year period, gained their confidence and could have accompanied them in their visits to the palace or meetings with the king.


Till now, no record is available on the place of death of Aditya and how the assassination was carried out. Author Kalki picks out the palace of Kadambur. There is a place called Kadambur in Thootthukkudi district dotted with temples showing Chola art. This place was away from Udayarkudi by over 600 kilometres. Since Aditya was the supreme king at the time of his death, he must have stayed in Tanjore or on a visit to palaces or temples where the brothers of the family also made their visits accompanied with the assassins.


More than the two brothers in regal service, the Vedic reciter, Kramavitthan seemed to have played into the hands of the assassins. By his name, Malayanuran, mentioned twice in the record, we understand that he was known by that name to the people around him. And he being a Kramavitthan shows that he could have had his Vedic training in Malayanur – the hilly region in the Chera land – in a Veda Pathashala. This is strikingly closer to Kandalur-shala, ransacked by Rajaraja I on taking over kingship!


Assassins stationed at Kandalur Shalai?


‘Kandalur-shalai kalam arutthu aru?i’ is the foremost feat boasted off by Rajaraja in his Prasasti. He has three types of Prasasti and all of them mention Kandalur shalai. No one knows what this refers to!


By the word Shala, it seems to convey some place of learning but ‘kalam’ refers to ships! In support of this, there is an inscription of Rajadhiraja, the son of Rajendra I of having destroyed the ships at Kandalur shalai. This victory is part of the Prasasti of Rajadhiraja indicating the continued assault on this place by the Chola-s even after Rajaraja I made the assault for the first time.


Even though there is this evidence of Kandalur shalai being a sea port where ships were harboured, an inscription engraved hundred years before this attack states that a Veda Pathashala was established in the year CE 866, by the king Karunanthadakkan at Parthivasekharapuram in Kanyakumari district. The crucial information given in this edict was that this Veda Pathashala was modelled after Kandalur Shalai.[i]


The date is given in Kali days by which we are able to establish the date precisely at CE 866. Ninety-five pupils, known as Sa??ar-s were to be trained in the same way as how it was being done in Kandalur shalai. The details of the inscription shows that Kandalur shalai was indeed a Veda Pathashala and offered higher education in Vedic studies. It is specifically mentioned that no weapon should be possessed. Punishment was given if someone was found to have any weapon. This goes to prove that no military or war training was given in this and Kandalur shalai.


It is logical to conclude that from the name of the Pathashala which must have been very popular for quite some time, the sea-port closer to it came to be known by the same name.


The topics taught at Parthivasekharapuram shalai will give clarity on what was taught at Kandalur shalai. The inscription states that three Veda-s and different Vedanga-s were taught. The Krama Patha which makes one a Kramavittha was also taught. The student seeking admission in this school must get himself certified by five Sa??ar-s on three issues – of which one was “possessing the learning necessary for the affairs of the three kingdoms”.


This shows that the Vedic school at Kandalur Shalai was basically meant for training people having previous experience in serving any of the three kingdoms (Chera, Chola or Pandya). Education at Kandalur Shalai further enhanced their knowledge required for the royal services. By insisting that they must possess knowledge of the affairs of the three kingdoms, we learn that there were differences in the religio-Vedic activities followed by the three kingdoms and that there was easy mobility for the passed-out students within any of the three kingdoms.


This further leads to an inference that the Vedic scholar of one kingdom could have been employed by the other kingdom, upon conquering the former’s kingdom. These revelations from Parthivasekharapuram inscription offer better solution to our questions.


Revadasa Kramavitthan, better known as Malayanuran must have had his higher education in Krama Patha at Kandalur shalai. He could have even worked for the Chera country by which he came to be known as Malayanuran (person of Hill country). He must have had contact with other Sa??ar-s for his initial entry into the institute. Once he had come out of the school, he, by having become eligible to certify other students for admission, must have been in constant touch with the school at Kandalur Shalai even though he had his residence in the Agrahara of the Chola country in the eastern section.


Suppose Kandalur shalai had become a place of refuge for the secret guards of the enemy kingdom, say, the Pandyan-s or even the Chera-s, just to gain access to the Chola king through a former Sa??ar, can anyone say it is impossible?


Due to Revadasa Kramavitthan’s regular contact with Kandalur Shalai, the assassin or a few of them could have easily befriended him and even made visits to his home. Two brothers of Revadasa in royal service was a great advantage to the spy to know about the movement of the king and even get access to the king. All the while Revadasa, his family and others around them must have been thinking that Sa??ar-s of the esteemed Kandalur Shalai were visiting them.


The admission of a student with training in the affairs of three kingdoms which made those Brahmin students appear neutral and dependable was shattered for the first time, when enemies of the Chola king misused the Institute to hide their identity. Rajaraja-s first and fore-most attack on Kandalur Shalai reveals that it was the location of the assassins.


Aditya’s first act was a revenge on Vira Pandya who killed his uncle, Gandraraditya. He cut off his head in retaliation of Vira Pandyan cutting off the head of Gandraraditya. So, we can expect the same kind of end for Aditya too. The assassins must have beheaded Aditya. In retaliation, we can guess that Rajaraja too beheaded the assassins of Aditya. Adding substance to this line of thought, an inscription discovered in 2009, in Chengam village, near Tiruvannamalai gives the prasasti of Rajaraja I on “beheading Malai A?arga?” of Kandalur Shalai.[ii]


The inscription at Chengam


What was the enmity with Malai A?arga? (people of hill country / Chera country) of Kandalur Shalai? Why were they beheaded? Why was this attack on Kandalur Shalai boasted off by Rajaraja in all his Prasasti-s?


Co-conspirators of the assassination


Looking at his initial war deeds given in Tiruvalangadu plates, three were his targets.

-       Amarabhujanga, the Pandyan king was seized, so also other small kings who worked secretly along with him.

-       He attacked the Vizhinjam Port, known as Vilinda in the inscription,

-       He set out for Lanka, to attack the Sinhala kings.


Those verses from Tiruvalangadu grant are reproduced here: [iii]


(V. 78.) (King) Amarabhujanga being seized, (other) dissolute kings, whose rule was secretly mischievous being much afraid of him at heart, wished to hide (themselves) somewhere (just like serpents with sliding crooked bodies).


(V. 79.) The commandant of (this) ornament of the Solar race, the hereditary home of (the goddess of) victory, captured (the town of) Vilinda whose moat was the sea, whose extensive ramparts were glorious and high (and) which was impregnable to the enemy warriors.


(V. 80.) The lord of the Raghavas (i.e., Rama) constructing a bridge across the water of the ocean with (the assistance of) able monkeys, killed with great difficulty the king of Lanka (i.e., Ravana) with sharp-edged arrows; (but) this terrible General of that (king Arunmolivarman) crossed the ocean by ships and burnt the Lord of Lanka (Ceylon). Hence Rama is (surely) surpassed by this (Chola General).


All these three, Pandya, Chera (Vilinda) and Sinhala were in alliance against the Chola king since long. Anytime they got a chance to recoup, they did their best to attack the Chola country. One such incident was the assassination of Aditya Karikala who took away the head of Vira Pandya.


The assassins must have been from the Chera country, going by the reference found in Chengam inscription. Amarabhujanga Pandya and his friends from small domains must have hatched the conspiracy. They used Kandalur Shalai to gain the contact of Revadasa Kramavitthan. They must have visited him or even stayed in his house for some time. They waited for proper time to get closer to the king along with Kramavitthan and beheaded him. All through this Kramavitthan could not have known that he was being used by them against his own king.


The killers must have been immediately caught and killed by the king’s body guards. Kramavitthan and his entire family must have been spared of their life – for not actually planning harm to the king, but must have been exiled and their properties confiscated. By the difference in the way the properties of Kramavitthan, his son and his mother were used, it seems that the assassins were in touch with them and stayed with them. For the kind of disgrace they brought to the Brahmin community, the proceeds from the sale of the property were specifically used for Brahmins. Another reason was to propitiate for the harm they brought to the king and the country unknowingly.


Once having ascertained the origin of the assassins from Kramavitthan, Rajaraja had immediately embarked on a military expedition to Kandalur Shalai and beheaded the conspirators taking refuge in the Pathashala by hiding their original identity. It is also possible that the entire Pathashala was destroyed by Rajaraja. The Pathashala perhaps ceased to exist after that.


His next attack was on Vizhinjam port, which must have been closer to Kandalur Shalai. A couple of instances reported in later reigns of attack on Kandalur Shalai were about attacks on ships on the port. A former port must have existed in the name of Kandalur Shalai due to proximity to that popular Institute.


The Pandyan and Sinhala king were also taken revenge of, strengthening our proposition that all these were hand in glove in removing Aditya for which they used Kandalur Veda Pathashala and an innocent Brahmin family.


This attack on the Chola king is the first of its kind in the known history of Tamil lands. A king could lose his life in a war, but losing his life to the sword of the assassin during peace time, in one’s own country, facilitated by unsuspecting Brahmins who always prayed for the longevity and prosperity of the king. was known until then.


The only parallel that I can think of was from recent times, in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi with almost the same modus operandi of assassins and helpers coming from the same countries / regions as in Aditya’s time. Was it a repeat of karma of concerned players? Who knows?


Post script:


The most damning part of the Chola history of this period was the uncharitable remark on Madhurantaka found in the Tiruvalangadu plates. Why was it written that Madhurantaka, Arulmozhivarman’s “paternal uncle coveted his (i.e., Arunmolivarman’s) dominions”?


This part was discussed by every researcher who went through this inscription. Of them, Nilakanta Sastri was highly critical. Let me quote his words from his book ‘Colas’ which was the question I had taken up as the research question for this series in the 3rd Part.


“the murder of Aditya II remained unavenged throughout the sixteen years in which Uttama Cola ruled. Sundara Cola himself having either died of a broken heart soon after the murder or after having found the natural course of justice obstructed by a powerful conspiracy. It seems impossible under the circumstances to acquit Uttama Cola of a part in the conspiracy that resulted in the foul murder of the heir apparent. Uttama coveted the throne and was not satisfied with the subordinate role assigned to princes of the blood in the administration of the kingdom; as representing a senior branch of the royal family, he perhaps convinced himself that the throne was his by right, and that his cousin and his children were usurpers. He formed a party of his own, and brought about the murder of Aditya II, and having done so, he forced the hands of Sundara Cola to make him heir apparent, and as there was no help for it, Sundara had to acquiesce in what he could not avert. The Tiruvalangadu plates seem to gloss over the story on purpose, and make statements which, though enigmatic in themselves, are fairly suggestive of the true course of events, when read together with the datum furnished by the Udayarkudi inscription.


The plates say:

‘Aditya disappeared owing to his desire to see heaven. (73) Though his subjects, with a view to dispel the blinding darkness caused by the powerful Kali (Sin), entreated Arumolivarma, he, versed in the dharma of the Ksattra, did not desire the kingdom for himself even inwardly as long as his paternal uncle coveted his own (i.e., Arumolivarma’s) country.’


The sun of Aditya had set; the darkness of sin prevailed; the people wanted Arumoli to dispel it; but Uttama’s cupidity triumphed, because of Arumoli’s restraint. Arumoli was not a coward; nor was he lacking in political ability or legal right. Anxious to avoid a civil war, he accepted a compromise, and agreed to wait for his turn until after Uttama’s desire to be king had found satisfaction: it was apparently part of the compromise that Uttama was to be succeeded not by his children, but by Arumoli. And in the words, again, of the Tiruvalangadu plates:


‘Having noticed by the marks (on his body) that Arumoli was the very Visnu, protector of the three worlds, descended (on earth), Madhurantaka installed him in the position of yuvaraja, and (himself) bore the burden of (ruling) the earth.’


We find accordingly Madhurantakan Gandaradittan, who must have been a son of Madhurantaka Uttama Cola, occupying high office under Rajaraja when he came to power and loyally assisting him in the administration of the country.


If this reading of the story of Uttama Cola’s accession is correct, Uttama Cola furnishes an instance, by no means unique in history, of selfish and perverse offspring born of parents distinguished for piety and right-mindedness; and his rash and bloody self-seeking stands out in striking contrast to the true nobility and statesmanship of the future Rajaraja.[iv]


Did Kalki agree with this notion of Sastri? No.


Born to pious parents – Gandraraditya and Sembian Mahadevi - it didn’t fit well to characterise Madhurantaka as greedy after power to the extent of plotting the assassination of his cousin. Another strange feature was his not seeking the throne for his progeny. He was quick to make Arulmozhi the next heir and almost handed over the administration to him while confining himself to pious activities. This is also being told in the same inscriptions.    


As a novelist who puts himself in the shoes of the characters, Kalki could not tow the line of Nilakanta Sastri, though as a leading historian of his time his influence was overpowering. Kalki couldn’t think bad of a person born to the great Gandraraditya couple and therefore created Sendhan Amudhan character as their original son. The greedy Madhurantaka was made into an imposter – someone who was thrust into that place by events that Kalki found aggregable to that time and he was ultimately made to quit the scene.


It was Kalki’s ultimate triumph in psycho-analysis of the characters involved. Had he been with us today, Madhurantaka would have become his hero – as Sembian Selvan!



[i] Travancore Archaeological Series, Vol I, p. 30.

[ii] https://web.archive.org/web/20131110195538/http://www.hindu.com/fr/2009/11/27/stories/2009112751290700.htm

[iii] Verses 78, 79, 80, “Tiruvalangadu Copper plates".


[iv] KA Nilakanta sastri, “Colas”, pages 157-159.






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