|Sundara Chola (Parantaka II)|
Chola Territories c. 970 CE
|Reign||?957 – ?970 CE|
|Queen||Vanavanmahadevi, Parantakan Devi and others|
|Issue||Aditya II (Karikala)|
Parantaka Chola II (r. 957–970 CE) was a Chola king who ruled for about twelve years. Also known by the name Parantaka Sundara Chola, he was the son of Arinjaya Chola and Kalyani, a princess from the clan of Vaidumbas. Parantaka II ascended the Chola throne despite the fact that his cousin Uttama Chola, the son of Gandaraditya (the elder brother of Arinjaya) was alive and he had equal if not more claim to the Chola throne.
When Parantaka II became king, the Chola kingdom had shrunk to the size of a small principality. The Pandyas in the south had revived their fortunes and had defeated the Chola armies and occupied their ancestral lands.
During Parantaka II's reign, the foundations were laid for the success of the Chola Empire a generation later. A few territories in the north were recoverred. The Pandyan ruler Vira Pandya was defeated and Madurai was taken. An expedition was made to gain control of Sri Lanka but it was not successful.
Immediately after becoming the Chola king, Parantaka II's attention was directed towards the growing strength of the Pandyas in the south. Vira Pandya, having repulsed Gandaraditya's attempts to restore Chola supremacy in the Pandya country, was ruling as an independent potentate. The invading Chola army met the Pandyas at Chevur.
The Leyden copperplate inscriptions tell us in that war, "Parantaka II caused rivers of blood to flow". Other inscriptions mention that Parantaka and his young son, Aditya Karikalan (also referred to as Aditya II) defeated Vira Pandya and made him flee to the hills surrounding the battlefield. The young son Aditya, who took to the battlefield at the age of "twelve" and who was a "very abhimanyu" in valour, is profusely praised for having conducted himself in battlefield with as much ease as he was at "military training sessions".
It is also possible that Aditya Karikalan killed Vira Pandya in that battle. Aditya's inscriptions use the epithet "Vira Pandyan Thalai Konda Adithha Karikalan" - "...took the head of Vira Pandya". After the battle of Chevur, Parantaka II's armies continued their thrust into the Pandya country. The Pandya king had the Sinhalese king Mahinda IV as his ally and the Lankan troops supported the Pandya army in the battlefield c. 959 CE. Parantaka II's armies also invaded Lanka to neutralise this support. The especially wicked nature of this coalition is noted by chola panegyrists to be "wicked force of age of kali, that were duly uprooted by the king.". As a procedure for de-recognizing the rogue kingdoms sundara chola also seized the royal insignia of pandyans like fish emblem, throne, gem studded crown and ancient pearl necklace.
Sundara Chola called himself Maduraikonda Rajakesari, that is the Royal Lion who took Madurai and Madhurantaka (destroyer of Madurai) in order to commemorate his victories over the Pandyas.
Although the Chola armies won the battle, the war was still not won. Parantaka II did not succeed in re-establishing the Chola power over the Pandya lands.
Success against Rashtrakutas
Parantaka II next concentrated in his war against Rashtrakutas. With his son and heir-apparent Aditya II at the command, the Chola armies succeeded in brutally avenging a previous treason by the great deccan dynasty and thereby completing the rout of foes started by Parantaka I. Some documents provide an interesting account of military acumen and gallantry exhibited during the war by a certain chola commander belonging to one of the 98 divisions of troop velaikkaras. The commander who is praised to be a devotee at feet of lord at thillai and who was "a very murugan at war", is credited to have on two occasions almost singlehandedly pulverized big battalions of the enemy thereby causing their defeat. This commander who is glorified in these deccan wars is at the instance of lord finally given up his uniform to become a saint at tirruvottriyur and take the name ottriyur atikalar there upon producing some very good works on saiva siddantam prior to attaining lord's beatitude.
Sri Lankan Expedition
Sundara Chola Parantaka also waged war against the Sinhala ruler in Sri Lanka. The expedition was led by his general and his relative the Irukkuvel chief Parantaka Siriyavelar. However this expedition did not end well for the Cholas as both Siriyavelar and the Chola King's brother in law, the Bana chief fell in battle.
Aditya II’s (Aditya Karikalan) Assassination
Parantaka II's last days appear to have been clouded by a personal tragedy. The heir-apparent Aditya II was assassinated by a group of conspirators.
There are other theories, claiming that the Pandyan spies were involved in the death of Aditya II and he was assassinated to avenge the death of Veerapandiyan in the battle of Chevur. There are however no direct evidence to support this theory. One of the inscriptions found at Udayarkudi temple in Tamil Nadu of Rajaraja notes that the property of some persons were confiscated as punishment for their involvement in the plot.
After the assassination of Aditya II, it seems that Uttama forced Parantaka II to make him the heir-apparent. Arulmozhivarman (or Rajaraja I), Parantaka II's second son did not protest, anxious to avoid a civil war. It was apparently part of the compromise that Uttama was to succeed the throne only if he accepted to be succeeded, not by his own children but by Arulmolivarman. The Thiruvalangadu copperplate inscription states that Madhurantaka Uttama Chola made Arulmoli the heir-apparent.
Parantaka II's death and Legacy
Parantaka II, heart broken by the personal tragedy died in Kanchipuram at his golden palace (c. 973 CE). He was thereafter known as "Pon maligai thunjina thevar" – "the king who died in the golden palace". Parantaka continued the chola legacy of absolutely professional and democratic management. This is seen from many inscriptions of his and his illustrious son aditya karikalan II, which describe reforms carried out professionally at universities, councils, military and navy. Parantaka was well supported by his management councillors. Thus we know from an inscription of his how a certain aniruddha brahmarayan who was a follower of jaiminiya sutra of samaveda(jaiminiya sutrattu aniruddha bhramarayar) and who was a "servitor at the feet of lord of river girt arankam(srirangam),i.e lord vishnu", who belonged to royal council being felicitated for selfless service.
One of his queens, Vanavanmahadevi, a princess from the clan of Malaiyaman, committed sati at the king's death and her image was perhaps installed at the Thanjavur Temple by her daughter Kundavai. Another queen, a Chera princess survived him until 1001 CE.
During Parantaka II's reign, literature both Sanskrit and Tamil received encouragement. The Buddhist work on Tamil grammar, Virasoliyam eulogises hims as a parton of letters and of Buddhism. The eulogy furnishes evidence for the friendly relationship between the Chola monarchs and the Buddhists.
The following is an inscription of Sundara Chola from the Sivayoganathaswami Temple in Tiruvisalur,
(Verse 3) May the Maheswaras protect the lamp presented with delight in the prosperous fifth year of(reign of) the best of kings, the illustrious Sundara Chola, by him who bore the name Siruvela, to Isa(Siva) who was pleased to dwell in the abode (temple) of Srivisalura(situated) in the virtuous village named Nimbagrhara on the northern bank of the (river) Kaveri.
The term foremost in the family of the king Pirantaka's daughter indicates the alliance between the Chola and Irukkuvel families and the chief Siriyavela might have been the King's son-in-law or his daughter's father-in-law.
Here is another inscription of Sundara Chola from the Vedapurisvara temple in Tirukkalittattai (north wall of the central shrine),
Records gift of lands for offerings to the temple of Srikudittittai-Udaiyar in Vadagarai-vembarrur by the king's general (senapati) Pirantakan Siriyavelar alias Tirukkarrali Pichchan.
References in Popular Tamil Fiction
Sundara Chola, forms a main character in Kalki Krishnamurthy’s historical Romance Ponniyin Selvan. In his story, Kalki imagines Sundara Chola to be an impotent ruler - handicapped by a debilitating illness. He is caught between opposing forces of his love for his children and his dependence on powerful courtiers.
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- Journal of Indian museums, Volumes 14-16 By Museums Association of India
- A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala States: Nilgiris District, Pudukkottai District, Ramanathapuram District, Salem District By T. V. Mahalingam