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Karikala Chola
கரிகால சோழன்
Karikala territories.png
Karikala's Territories c.120C.E.
Reign c.120 CE
Title Peruvalattan
Tirumavalavan
Capital Kaveripatnam
Urayur
Queen Unknown Velir princess
Children Nalankilli
Nedunkilli
Mavalattan
Predecessor Ilamcetcenni
Successor Unknown
Father Ilamcetcenni
Born Unknown
Died Unknown
List of Chola kings
Early Cholas
Ilamcetcenni  ·   Karikala Chola
Nedunkilli  ·  
Killivalavan  ·   Kopperuncholan
Kocengannan  ·   Perunarkilli
Interregnum (c.200–848)
Medieval Cholas
Vijayalaya Chola 848–871(?)
Aditya I 871–907
Parantaka Chola I 907–950
Gandaraditya 950–957
Arinjaya Chola 956–957
Sundara Chola 957–970
Uttama Chola 970–985
Rajaraja Chola I 985–1014
Rajendra Chola I 1012–1044
Rajadhiraja Chola 1018–1054
Rajendra Chola II 1051–1063
Virarajendra Chola 1063–1070
Athirajendra Chola 1067–1070
Later Cholas
Kulothunga Chola I 1070–1120
Vikrama Chola 1118–1135
Kulothunga Chola II 1133–1150
Rajaraja Chola II 1146–1163
Rajadhiraja Chola II 1163–1178
Kulothunga Chola III 1178–1218
Rajaraja Chola III 1216–1256
Rajendra Chola III 1246–1279
Chola society
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Chola military  ·   Chola Navy
Chola art  ·   Chola literature
Solesvara Temples
Poompuhar  ·   Urayur
Gangaikonda Cholapuram
Thanjavur  ·   Telugu Cholas
edit

Karikala Chola (Tamil: கரிகால சோழன்) was the greatest among the early Chola kings of the Sangam age in South India. He was the son of Ilamcetcenni and ruled around 120 CE.

He was also known by the epithets Karikala Peruvallattan (கரிகால பெருவளத்தான்) and Thirumavalavan (திருமாவளவன்).

Contents

Sources

The story of Karikala is mixed with legend and anecdotal information gleaned from Sangam literature. Karikala has left us no authentic records of his reign. The only sources available to us are the numerous mentions in Sangam poetry. The period covered by the extant literature of the Sangam is unfortunately not easy to determine with any measure of certainty.

Pattinappaalai, Porunaraatruppadai and a number of individual poems in Akananuru and Purananuru have been the main source for the information that is attributed to Karikala.

Early life

Karikala was the son of Ilamcetcenni ‘…distinguished for the beauty of his numerous war chariots..’[1]. The name Karikalan has been held to mean 'the man with the charred leg' and perpetuates the memory of a fire accident in the early years of his life. However, this is now widely considered by scholars as a back-formation, and that the correct etymology is from Tamil kari + kalan, or "slayer of elephants". Porunar-aatrup-padai describes the back-formed origin legend of this incident as follows:

The king of Urayur Ilancetcenni married a Velir princess from Azhundur and she became pregnant and gave birth to Karikala. Ilamcetcenni died soon after. Due to his young age, Karikala's right to the throne was overlooked and there was political turmoil in the country. Karikala was exiled. When normality returned, the Chola ministers sent a state elephant to look for the prince. The elephant found the prince hiding in Karuvur. His political opponents arrested and imprisoned him. The prison was set on fire that night. Karikala escaped the fire and, with the help of his uncle Irum-pitar-thalaiyan, defeated his enemies. Karikala’s leg was scorched in the fire and from thence Karikala became his name.

Pattinap-paalai, written in praise of Karikala also describes this incident, but without mention of the fable of the burnt limb:

Like the Tiger cub with its sharp claws and its curved stripes growing (strong) within the cage, his strength came to maturity (like wood in grain) while he was in the bondage of his enemies. As the large trunked elephant pulls down the banks of the pit, and joins its mate, even so after deep and careful consideration, he drew his sword, effected his escape by overpowering the strong guard and attained his glorious heritage in due course.

Military conquests

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Battle of Venni

According to Poruna-raatr-uppadai, Karikala Chola fought a great battle at Venni near Thanjavur in which both Pandya and Chera suffered crushing defeat.[2] Although we know very little about the circumstances leading to this battle, there can be no doubt that it marked the turning point in Karikala’s career, for in this battle he broke the back of the powerful confederacy formed against him.[3] Besides the two crowned kings of the Pandya and Chera countries, eleven minor chieftains took their side in the campaign and shared defeat at the hands of Karikala.[4] The Chera king, who was wounded on his back in the battle, committed suicide by starvation.

Venni was the watershed in the career of Karikala which established him firmly on his throne and secured for him some sort of hegemony among the three crowned monarchs. Venni which is also known as Vennipparandalai and now it is known as Kovilvenni. Kovilvenni is suituated between Ammapettai(Tanjore) and Needamangalam.[5]

Other wars and conquests

After the battle of Venni, Karikala had other opportunities to exercise his arms. He defeated the confederacy of nine minor chieftains in the battle of Vakaipparandalai. Paranar, a contemporary of Karikala, in his poem from Agananuru mentions this incident without giving any information on the cause of the conflict.[5]

Kallanai / Grand Anicut built by Karikala Cholan, on the River Kaveri, near Tiruchirappalli

According to legends Karikalan was one of the few Tamil kings who won the whole Ceylon (Lanka). His kallanai was built after his conquer over Singalese kingdom. It was said that he did not want to use the Tamil workers to be used for moving hard stones from mountains to the river bed, instead he used the Singalese war prisioners to move the heavy stones to the river bed.

Pattinappaalai also describes the destruction caused by Karikala’s armies in the territories of his enemies and adds that as the result of these conflicts, the 'Northerners and Westerners were depressed… and his flushed look of anger caused the Pandya’s strength gave way…'

However, there is no evidence to show that Karikala’s conquests extended beyond the land of the Kaveri.

Legends

Northern conquests

Since ancient times Karikala became the subject of many myths which in modern times have often been accepted as serious history. Cila-ppati-karam (c. sixth century C.E.) which attributes northern campaigns and conquests to all the three monarchs of the Tamil country, gives a glorious account of the northern expeditions of Karikala, which took him as far north as the Himalayas and gained for him the alliance and subjugation of the kings of Vajra, Magadha and Avanti countries. There is no contemporary evidence either in Sangam literature or from the north Indian source for such an expedition.

Raising the banks of Kaveri

Later Chola kings referred to Karikala Chola as a great ancestor, and attributed him with the building of dikes along the banks of the Kaveri.[4][2]

The raising of the banks of the river Kaveri by Karikala seems to be first mentioned by the Melapadu plates of Punyakumara, a Telugu Choda king of the seventh or the eighth century C.E. This story mingles with another stream of legend centering around Trinetra Pallava, and culminates in the celebrated jingle of the late Telugu Choda inscriptions:

karuna - saroruha vihita - vilochana – pallava – trilochana pramukha kilapritvisvara karita kaveri tira
(He who caused the banks of the Kaveri to be constructed by all the subordinate kings led by the Pallava Trinetra whose third eye was blinded by his lotus foot.)

This has been made the basis of conclusions of the highest importance to the chronology of Early South Indian history.

Personal life and death

இறந்தோன் அவனே!
பாடியவர்: கருங்குழல் ஆதனார்.
பாடப்பட்டோன்: சோழன் கரிகாற் பெருவளத்தான்.
திணை: பொதுவியல். துறை: கையறுநிலை.

அருப்பம் பேணாது அமர்கடந் ததூஉம்;
துணைபுணர் ஆயமொடு தசும்புடன் தொலைச்சி,
இரும்பாண் ஒக்கல் கடும்பு புரந்ததூஉம்;
அறம்அறக் கணட நெறிமாண் அவையத்து,
முறைநற்கு அறியுநர் முன்னுறப் புகழ்ந்த
பவியற் கொள்கைத் துகளறு மகளிரொடு,
பருதி உருவின் பல்படைப் புரிசை,
எருவை நுகர்ச்சி, யூப நெடுந்தூண்,
வேத வேள்வித் தொழில்முடித் ததூஉம்;
அறிந்தோன் மன்ற அறிவுடையாளன்;
இறந்தோன் தானே; அளித்துஇவ் வுலகம்
அருவி மாறி, அஞ்சுவரக் கருகிப்,
பெருவறம் கூர்ந்த வேனிற் காலைப்,
பசித்த ஆயத்துப் பயன்நிரை தருமார்,
பூவாட் கோவலர் பூவுடன் உதிரக்
கொய்துகட்டு அழித்த வேங்கையின்,
மெல்லியல் மகளிரும் இழைகளைந் தனரே.

Pattinappaalai describes Karikala as an able and just king. It gives a vivid idea of the state of industry and commerce under Karikala who promoted agriculture and added to the prosperity of his country by reclamation and settlement of forest land. He also built the Grand Anaicut, one of the oldest dams in the world and also a number of irrigation canals and tanks.

We know next to nothing regarding Karikala’s personal life. Naccinarkkiniyar, the annotator of Tolkappiyam, states that Karikala married a Velir girl from Nangur. He most certainly had more than one queen. There is evidence in Purananuru for Karikala’s faith in the then embryonic Vedic Hinduism in the Tamil country. Purananuru (poem 224) movingly expresses his faith and the grief caused by his passing away:

He who stormed his enemies' forts undauntedly, who feasted his minstrels and their families and treated them to endless draughts of toddy, who in the assembly of 'Samayakuravas' noted for their knowledge of Dharma and purity of life, guided by priests learned in their duties and attended by his noble and virtuous queen, performed the vedic sacrifice in which the tall sacrificial post stood on a bird-like platform, within the sacrificial court surrounded by a high wall with round bastions, he, the great and wise king alas, is no more! Poor indeed is this world, which has lost him. Like the branches of the vengi tree, which stands bare, when their bright foliage has been stripped down by shepherds eager to feed their cattle in the fierce summer, are his fair queens, who have cast off their jewels.

Notes

  1. ^ Purananuru – 266
  2. ^ a b See Majumdar, p 137
  3. ^ See Tripathi, p 458
  4. ^ a b See Kulke and Rothermund, p 104
  5. ^ a b See Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India, p112-113

References

  • Hermann, Kulke; Rothermund D (2001) [2000]. A History of India. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32920-5.  
  • Majumdar, R.C (1987). Ancient India. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publications. ISBN 8-120-80436-8.  
  • Mudaliar, A.S (1984) [1931]. Abithana Chintamani. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.  
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K.A (1984) [1935]. The CōĻas. Madras: University of Madras.  
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K.A (2002) [1955]. A History of South India. New Delhi: OUP.  
  • Tripathi, Rama Sankar (1967). History of Ancient India. India: Motilal Banarsidass Publications. ISBN 8-120-80018-4.  

See also


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