Cholas of Thanjavur

The Chola Occupation : 990 - 1070

One of the mightiest south Indian sovereigns, the Rajaraja Chola (985-1014) invaded Lanka in 990 AD and conquered the northern half. Ruining Anuradhapura he made Polonnaruwa his capital on the island; a region which he re-named Mummudi-cholamandalam. Rajaraja associated his son Rajendra Chola in government during 1012 and then died in 1014.

Rajendra Chola mounted the throne as paramount king in 1014. After four years sole rule, he associated his own son Rajadhiraja in government during 1018. Rajendra Chola succeeded in expanding the substantial realm recently consolidated by his father Rajaraja. He extended Chola occupation over the whole island of Lanka in 1018. Sinhala king, Mahendra, was taken prisoner to Thanjavur, where he died in 1027.

From 1017 until 1070 Lanka was dominated by the Cholas. During that time some local dignitaries, who were given the title king in the Sinhala Chronicles, exercised some authority in the Ruhana district of southern Lanka at times when they were not subjected to attacks by the Chola masters of the island.

Rajadhiraja Chola, associated in kingship since 1018, ruled independently from the time of his father's death in 1044. He maintained Chola authority over most of Lanka, despite a series of revolts. He continued the struggle with the Chalukyas, defeating Somesvara Chalukya, but losing his own life in battle at Koppam in 1052. His younger brother Rajendra II ascended the throne and ruled until 1064. He was succeeded by the third brother, Virarajendra (1063-1070), who had been created Yuvaraja the previous year. Conflicts persisted between Somesvara Chalukya and these three Chola kings without any substantial change in their mutual frontiers. Virarajendra's son Adhirajendra was associated with his father from 1068, but died a few months after Virarajendra in 1070.

The Chola throne then passed to another branch of the family, Kulottunga Chola (1070-1120), a great-grandson of Rajaraja Chola. During this period of Chola decline Lanka became independent under Vijaya-bahu (1055-1110), who had occupied Polonnaruwa in 1070 and crowned himself king in 1073. The subsequent peace established between Vijaya-bahu and Kulottunga in 1088 was cemented by a marriage.

Text edited from
* Oriental Coins: Michael Mitchiner, London, Hawkins Publications, 1978.