SRIRANGAM DURING THE CHOLA PERIOD
The occupation of Tanjore by Vijayalaya Chola, the founder in 850 A.D.
and the construction of a temple over there marked the initial step in the rise of
the Imperial Chola to power in South India. Later his son Aditya I took the
opportuinity of Pallava king Aparajita and consolidated his territories 1
is confirmed by the Tirvalangadu plates.2
Thus the Cholas slowly carved out an
empire for themselves, a second time at Tanjore under a powerful monarch.
The Chola rulers from Vijayala to Rajaraja I can be regarded as the builders of
this great empire.3
According to the available literary evidences the nucleus of the temple
seems to have been in existence during the period of the Tamil Sangam, i. e.,
roughly. One of the early Chola kings of Uraiyur, a Killi Chola, seems to have
Prantaka I (907-955 A.D) succeeded his father Aditya- I
and he is credited with having conquered Ceylon but he suffered a crushing
defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III at Takkolam near
Arakonam, where in his son Rajadiyta was killed. Prantakas country ( present
Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts and adjoining areas) was invaded by the
Rashtrakutas and he was forced to fall back on Tanjore and Tiruchirappalli
districts at Srirangam. But Adiyta II later regained all the lost territories as
Krishna III was forced to concentrate his attention in the north.
1. E. I., Vol. IX, 88; Madras Epigraphical Reports (M.E.R.) , Part II, 1906, Para 10
2. S.I.I., Vol.VII, No. 205.
3. Krishnaswami Aiyangar, S., Ancient India, Madras, 1911, p. 98
founded the temple. The earliest inscription in the temple belong to the Chola
of the Tenth Century. Rajamahendra Chola (1060-1063), a son of Rajendra II ,
is said to have built the second prakara wall, and the enclosure so formed is
called Rajamahendran Tiruvidi. During this period the early Vaisnava
Acharyas, Viz., Nathahmuni, Uyyakondar, Manakkal Nambi and Alavandar
were active in Srirangam. They were not only propagating the Vaisnava faith
but were controlling the affairs of the Srirangam temple. Ramanuja, the
founder of Visistadvaita, made Srirangam his headquarters and reorgaised the
administration of the temple. He was forced to go out from Srirangam to the
Country of the Hoysalas by a persecuting Chola, called Krimikanda Chola,
who entitled with Kutottunga II (1070-1120).
In this Chapter are traced the fortunes of the Srirangam covering the
period form 10th
to the 12th
Centuries, from 924 A.D. the date of the earliest
Chola inscripttions in the temple, to 1178 A.D. the close of the reign of
Rajathiraja II, when the Chola began to ecline and the Pandyas rose to power.
This was an eventful period in the history of the temple. Srirangam became the
headquarters of the Vaishnava movement under the resourceful Acharyas, the
greatest of whom was Ramanuja. The latter was both the Vaishnava pontiff and
the warden of the temple. Numerous inscriptions in the temple of the Chola
kings of this period detailing their gifts and benefactions. They do not throw
any direct light on the activities of the Acharyas, for which tradition as
recorded in the Guruparamparai is the only source. But in this period the
temple grew in wealth and resources.4
The Chola ruler Vijayalaya revived the Chola power and Tiruchirappalli
region became a part of the Chola Empire with the Srirangam area
Aditya I (871-907 A.D.)
Imperial Cholas established their power under Vijayalaya (850- 871) aroud 850
A.D. Vijayalaya made his capital at Tanjore and built a temple for
Nisumpasudari at the capital city. Vijayalaya was succeeded by his son Aditya-
I. He ascended to the Chola throne in the 870 A.D6. An inscription of this king
dated in the 4th
year and 89th
day of the reign of Rajakesarivaraman who may
be identified with Aditya -I (871-907 A.D)7
Record the resolution (Jayasthai i.e. Vyavastha) of the Perunguri-Sabha
of Srirangam the terms of which were as follows: From the commencement of
the Kings 5th
year the devadana lands should be properly managed without
allowing the growth of pests and weeds. Otherwise the varikar in charge of the
pandaram the karanam in charge of accounts should be liable to a fine of 25
kalanju gold individually in favour of the lamp service of the temple and they
should be replaced by new incumbents.
This irscription is placed right at the entrance into threshing floor in the
fourth prakara of the Ranganatha temple. The second inscription registers an
4. Hari Rao, V.N., Srirangam Temple Art and Architecture, Tirupati, 1967, p. 3. 5. Ibid., p.48.
6. Nilakanta Sastri,K.A., The Colas, Madras, 1955, p.45. 7. A.R.E., 69 of 1892.
8. Mahalingarn, T.V., A Topographical List of Inscriptions in the Tamilnadu and Kerala
States, Vol. VIII, New Delhi, 1991,pp.10-12.
endowment 90 Kalanju of semmai gold by puittadigal, son of karaal
vilupperaraiyar arivaladigal, towards the feeding of four Brahmanas. The sabha
of Tiruvarangam (Srirangam) undertakes to supply 1120 kalams of ripe
annually measured out with the measure called sennadaikkal for the interest on
the endowed amount9
The earliest Chola inscription in the Srirangam temple is dated in the
17th year of Parantaka- I (A.D.907-955). It registers a gift of 30 gold pieces for
a permanent lamp. 40 for camphor, one for cotton wick besides the gift of a
silver lamp-stand made to the temple. The Sabha of Tiruvarangam took charge
of the endowments. The donor was one Sankaran Ranasingan.
Parantaka- I (905-955 A.D)
inscription is dated in the 38th
year of the same king and it registers a gift of
100 kalanju of gold for the Tirumanjanam (holy bath) of Sriranganatha by the
Sahasradarai (1000 holed) plate. The donor was one Pallavaraiyan. This gift
too was entrusted to the Sabha of Tiruvarangarn.11
Another inscription of this
king dated in his 41st
year records a gift of two plots of land by a certain
Acciyan Bhattan Sri Sri Vasudevan Cakrapani of Peruvengur (in Vila-nadu)
for cake offerings to the God of Srirangam on the ekadasi day during the
Panguni festival in the temple.12
9 . S.I.I., Vol. XXIV, No. 2.
10. A.R.E., 72 of 1892; S.I.I. Vol. IV, No.519.
11. Ibid., 71 of 1892; S.I.I., Vol. IV, No.518.
12. Ibid., 95 of 1936-1937.
The inscription registers13
a gift of some jewels by Thananjan narayanan
of pullamangalam in kalark kurram. There are two inscriptions of this king
dated 948-949 A.D., in the Srirangam temple itself. They records a gift by
Brahma dhirajan alias Achchiyan Bhattan Sri Vasudevan Chakrapani of
Peruvengur of two pieces of land in Sasanamangalam, a tax- free brahmadeya
of his own in Vila-nadu, for sweet cake offerings to the god on the day of
Ekadesi, during the panguni festival in the temple. Mentions the measure
called Rajakesari. The last inscriptionof the kings reignal year may be an year
between forty one and forty eight, recording a similar gift of jewels as recorded
in no.8 above by ten (navan) Brahmasrirajan alias Narayana raiyan of
Another inscription of this king dated 945-946 A.D. records a gift of
land in Sasanamangalam in Vila nadu for food offerings on the occasion of the
bathing ceremony of the god on the day of Rohini, the day of
Tirumulaippuludi during the Panguni -Uttiram festival by Achchiyan Bhattan
alias Sri vasudevan, a brahmadhiraja of Peruvengur in Vilanadu. 15
Uttamachola, son of Sembiyan Madevi and Gandaraditya, ruled the
Chola Country during 969 or 970 to 985 A.D. There in only one inscription of
Uttamacholas period in this region. The record is dated in the fifteenth regnal
Uttamachola (970-985 A.D)
14. Ibid., 418 of 1961-1962.
15. Ibid., 415 of 1961-1962.
year of Uttamachola. Records that the members of the sabha of Srirangam
agreed to run the service of burning a lamp in front of Tiruvarangattu
Perumanadigal with Bhima semni karpuram (Camphor) and ghee provided
for,from the interest on 71 kalanju of gold invested by Sridharan Kumaran, a
Malaiyali of Iravimangalam in Valluva nadu of Malainadu.16
After the death of Uttamachola, Arumbivarman who was the greatest
Chola ruler assumed the royal title of Rajaraja I, ascended the throne and ruled
for about 30 years. He was the talented son of Sudara Chola Vanavan and
Mahadevi. His reign was splendid as the formative period of Chola imperialism
. There are nearly eighth inscriptions of this king which have been reported in
various palces in the Srirangam region. A Tamil inscription of the period is
found on the tiers of the Ottaikkal mandapam attached to the Unjal mandapam
of the Srirangam Temple. This inscription registers a gift of gold by Kuravan,
one of the commanders (Senapati) of the king.
Rajaraja- I (985--1014 A.D)
17The other details are lost as it
contains a portion of the prasasti of the king.18
The second inscrip