Rajendra Chola III

Rajendra Chola III

Infobox Chola | name=Rajendra Chola III
tamil =


caption = "Chola territories c. 1246 CE"
title = Parakesari
reign= 1246 C.E. - 1279 C.E.
capital = Gangaikonda Cholapuram
queen= Cholakulamadeviyar
children= Unknown
predecessor= Rajaraja Chola III
heir= Unknown
father= Rajaraja Chola III
year of birth= Unknown
year of death= ?1279 C.E.

Rajendra Chola III was the son of Rajaraja Chola III who came to the Chola throne in 1246 CE. Although his father Rajaraja III was still alive, Rajendra began to take effective control over the administration. Rajendra was a much abler king than his father and tried to stop the rapid decline the Chola kingdom was experiencing due to the incompetence of Rajaraja III.

In the end these efforts were in vain, mainly due to the cunning shift in policy of the Hoysalas, and the struggling kingdom could not withstand the vigour of the Pandyas and was eventually absorbed within the Pandyan kingdom. Rajendra III is thus the last Chola king of the once great Empire. Like many chola/pallava monarchs, he was also a devotee at the feet of lord of thillai(chidambaram). During his rule the pious saiva saint/scholar umapathi sivacharya(1253.C.E-1311.C.E) lived and produced great devotional literature in tamil and sanskrit from chidambaram.

Attempts at recovery

As the capable prince, Rajendra could not standby and watch the influence and prestige of the empire go down the drain and began to take active part in the official duties as soon as he was installed the heir apparent in 1246. Although Rajaraja III continued to rule in name for a few more years, he was effectively sidelined by Rajendra.

By 1250 Rajendra began his strenuous attempts at regaining some of the lost prestige and started his Painstaking programme of recovery. Inasmuch as the entire system of the cholas was becoming degenerate. We hear of cases of serious treason,subversion, infiltration,impostorism and misappropriation from inscriptions. In one case we are told that the managing supervisors at Ranganathaswamy temple at srirangam had commited serious fraud and only with great difficulty could the damages be made up and with great difficulty theycould dissolve and re-appoint people.A similar case of corruption is recorded at cuddalore when the brahmana priests appointed in a temple had to be "forcefully sacked and treated like menial prisoners" by the chieftain for alleged crimes.All these factors certainly helped the oppurtunistic chola enemies. He attacked the Pandya country and killed two of five Pandyan princes and made the rest "mortally afraid of him". One inscription at vennainallur claims how he "was pleased to adorn his feet with the severed head of pandyan" and another at ranganathaswamy temple srirangam in 1249.C.E" how he made the canarese king someshwar, a very representative of age of kali fall to his feet for mercy during war and assumed title destroyer of wickedness of age of kali". Ditto with pallavas, who at least temporarily faced subversion and sacking of couple of their important ports and great ancient city of tiruvatikai from obscure tribal soldiers from odda vishaya(orissa) and karnata.He could not progress further due to lack of resources and time. The numerous wars that cholas fought all over the continent, during previous centuries, though very successful in meeting objectives also had resulted in steady though slow drainage of resources. During 1256 .CE we find in srirangam inscriptions representing as many as seven dynasties of peninsula and srilanka. This itself speaks of confusion.Even though his enemies like Pandyas were rapidly emerging from the shadows of their erstwhile overlords, Rajendra-III at least initially made a very brave and bold attempts to hold on to the remaining territories controlled by his predecessors, but he was severely disadvantaged because the Kadava(pallava) Kings led Kopperinjinga-I and later his successors Kopperinjingan-II, who claimed to be successors of the Pallavas had become very powerful in the Kanchi, Gudalur and Nellore regions and their influence had spread up to Chidambaram. At the same time, in the South, the Pandyas had been rapidly re-emerging. There are some indications that because of the weak rule of his father Raja Raja-III, Rajendra-III had taken the help of Kopperinjungan to become king by negotiating with him when he had imprisoned his father. He took the help of the Kadamba king in his fights against the Pandyas and was also initially successful. He allied well with old Chola allies of Pallavas now led by brilliant kopperunjingan-II (who in his inscriptions has claimed to have routed the Hoysalas as well as levied tribute on the Chola king also). Kopperinjunga-II in turn, it seems was obliged to support Rajendra-III because he had his own running feud with both the Pandyas and Hoysalas, who in turn were the enemies and possible adversaries, respectively of the Cholas too.

Change in Hoysala attitude

During Rajendra's reign, as explained above, there was a marked change in the Hoysala attitude towards the Cholas, this was forced mainly by the aggressive attitude that he pursued when compared to his father, who tried to align with the unreliable Hoysalas who themselves had been wobbling because of the Kalachuris, Kadambas and Kakatiyas knocking at their doors. The Hoysalas could turn the enemies of the Cholas anydays given the present precarious position of the Chola dynasty. Being a self-respecting King who valued his pride and the country's prestige before his own life and well-being, for a short while at least, according to the Vriddhachalam inscriptions, Rajendra-III refer to his enmity with Hoysala someswara. For him indeed there was no question of putting up with rogue kingdoms or "rulers of age of kali"(as the chola panegyrists refer to their enemies).

When the Hoysala ruler Vira Somesvara noticed the growing leadership of Rajendra III and the apparent strengthening of the Pandyas, following the maxim 'enemies enemy is my friend' they lent their support to the Pandyas in order to prevent the resurgence of the Cholas under Rajendra-III. This tactic, no doubt proved successful ultimately. The object of Hoysala diplomacy was plain. They wanted to keep the potentially dangerous cholas from becoming dominant once again. The fact that the Pandyan kings were for centuries were natural enemies both of Cholas and that the Pandyas continued that animosity with their revival, coupled with Hoysalas purported support and closeness to the Pandyas helped their own cause. Probably the Hoysalas expected support from the Pandyas in their confrontations with the Kalachuris and Kakatiyas. The troubled time and confusion during 13th century was used by several dynasties like Kakatiyas, Sinhalese, etc. in trying to gain a foothold in far south India.

whenever there was signs of Chola revival,Rajendra had to fight wars against successive armies of Pandyans,Hoysalas and Kakatiyas and even though he held on to his territories with strenuos effort and personal valour. Although none of the above mentioned dynasties were individually a match to the Chola/Pallava valour and military genius, their sheer numerical strength at a time when cholas faced resource crunch, plus the much reduced size of the Chola domains, which meant that the Chola/Pallava army had fewer generals to lead their armies made things more difficult for Rajendra-III. After repeated wars for a period of three years, Rajendra III gave up all claims in the Pandya country, despite the fact that there was no loss of Chola territory, but there was no gain either in the face of growing Pandya hegemony over the South, which was to prove very damaging ultimately to both the Kakatiyas and the Hoysalas resulting in the weakening of those two kingdoms.

Telugu Chola alliance

Pandyan expansion

Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I ascended the Pandya throne in 1251 CE and in him the Pandyan kingdom found a leader with moderate ability and valour. By 1258, he had the warlike Cholas to retreat though through questionable tactics,once again and forced the Hoysalas to retreat to the Mysore plateau.

End of the Chola dynasty

This sudden rising tide of Pandya power once more brought the Cholas and the Pallavas together. They gave battle to the Cholas and in 1279 CE,this was the last war that we hear of cholas and pallavas. Both of them either perished in this war or disappeared from scene altogether but gallantly, which was of course inevitable given the growth strength of the Pandyas who had an extremely valorous king Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I. It is said that Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I was an extremely capable warrior and leader of men, who almost succeeded in uniting the southern peninsula under one empire, after the great Cholas. He proved this with his victories over the Hoysala Somesvara whom he killed and occupied Mysore, Nanjangud and Mandya, he also defeated the Kakatiyas, who ultimately became friendly with him, extended his territories up to Ongole. Rajendra-III towards the end of his time and that of the chola lineage, was forced even though owing more to personal resource crunch than to his unwillingness to fight enemies, to defensive against the pandyans. The guerrilla tactics employed by all his enemies had much to do in this.In 1264 A.D., the last pallava chief kopperunjingan fought and killed the canarese king Someswara(Ref.pallava inscription, 1264 A.D at tripurantakam,chidambaram), though in his inscription at the Ranganathaswami Temple in Srirangam, Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan I claimed to have vanquished Hoysala Someshvara. The Pandyan king finally turned against the resourceless and weakened Cholas and Pallavas. Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan it seems met the Cholas somewhere between Tiruchy and Thanjavur and claims in his inscription to have destroyed both Uraiyur (the old capital of the Cholas) and Thanjavur in a single day. It seems he led his forces up to Gangaikonda Cholapuram and destroyed the Chola fort and caused extensive damanage to the outerwall of the temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram. These acts, it appears, effectively it signalled the end of the Chola Kingdom along with that of Pallavas, for he do not hear of any Chola or Pallava king at either Gangaikonda Cholapuram or Kanchi, respectively. However, the known period of rule of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan was between 1246 or 1251-1268 after which he was succeeded by Maravarman Kulasekhara, assisted by his son Jatavarman Vira Pandiyan, while the rule of Rajendra-III was definitely up to 1279 AD. It appears after routing the Cholas and absorbing all their territories, the Pandya kings concentrated on their other conquests, while the Chola king ruled in and around either Uraiyur or Gangaikonda Cholapuram for the next twenty or twenty five years before vanishing from the scene altogether, thus signalling the demise of the greatest dynasty to have ruled South India.

References

* Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1935). "The CōĻas", University of Madras, Madras (Reprinted 1984).
* Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). "A History of South India", OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002).
* South Indian Inscriptions - http://www.whatisindia.com/inscriptions/


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