Rajaraja Chola, King of Kings, Incomparable Chola, Great Saviour, Jewel of the Solar Dynasty, Lion AmongKings, was one of the greatest rulers of medieval India. During his reign, theChola empire expanded through virtually all of the southern reaches of the peninsulaand beyond, from the Krishna-Godavari delta in northern Andhra Pradesh to largeparts of northern Sri Lanka. Born
Arulmozhi Varman in 947 ce, hetrained under his father and uncle for over a quarter of a century and thenruled for twenty-nine years. King of Kings is a fitting title for thismultifaceted man who was brilliant, ambitious, ruthless, and a visionary. Hefortified the foundations of what was till then a ragtag kingdom, put intoplace a meticulously organized system of administration, and led the kingdom toreign supreme in military might, as an economic powerhouse, and in art, architecture, literature, music, and dance.
In this book, Kamini Dandapaniexplores the man behind the larger-than-life image of Rajaraja and the milieuin which he reigned. The origins of the Chola empire lie in the Sangam eraaround 2,000 years ago, when the first rulers of the family, men like Karikalaand Kochengannan, ruled over small tracts of land around the Kaveri delta. Bythe middle of the ninth century, the ‘Imperial Cholas’ (as historians namedthem) began to consolidate power at the expense of rivals like the Pallavas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Cheras, Gangas, Pandyas, and other smaller kingdoms.Rajaraja became king in 985 ce and, during his reign, the Chola empire reachedits zenith. All his major achievements are described in detail-victories on thebattlefield, the expansion of territory, the building of the monumentalBrihadeeshwara Temple, the gargantuan land survey, and much else besides. Thebook
goes into every aspect of Cholasociety-the place of women, the flowering of culture, including the making ofexquisite Chola bronzes, the spread of religion, and the lives of ordinarypeople. After the death of Rajaraja in 1014, his son Rajendra expanded theempire; others that followed had mixed fortunes and, a couple of centurieslater, the dynasty succumbed to their greatest rivals, the Pandyas.
However, in their heyday, andespecially under their greatest king, few empires or emperors could comparewith the Cholas and Rajaraja. This scrupulously researched and brilliantly toldbiography brings to vivid and compelling life one of India’s greatest empiresand rulers.