Wednesday, October 27, 2021

War Trophies of Rajendra Chola

Another feather in the Chola’s cap is the great King Rajendra Chola. He is none other than the son of Rajaraja Chola. Just like his ancestors, Rajendra was very successful in the battles that he fought and ferreted his enemies. He along with his army vanquished his enemies and bought home his exemplary war trophies.

Valorous Years

Being a Chola helped Rajendra’s growth in the already organized administration, powerful bureaucracy, strong army and the naval force. He emerged as any other victorious Chola King.

Before ascending the throne Rajendra ‘s war with the Ganga Clan, Nolambas, Tulu, Konkans, Kodavas, Telugu speaking region, and also the Chera country made his enemies incapacitated.  Rajendra Chola was the only king to be abundantly blessed by Vijayalakshmi as well as Durga which is evident from his back to back success over different regions.

Chalukya's Nandi in Vada-Kailayam within Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple
Apart from being victorious, Rajendra’s war trophies made him stand out. His attraction towards victory is synonymous as he got the idols of Mahishasura Mardini from his war expeditions. It is not just Rajendra, but all his ancestors worshipped this fierce form of Durga before going for a war. 

During the first ten years of his rule, he displayed his courage and valor in the wars that he fought. In the 11th Century Rajendra’s army defeated Kings from the North and reached the banks of the river Ganges and the army was made to carry the holy water in golden pots to the new capital Gangaikonda Cholapuram. In fact the title Gangaikonda Cholan refers to the King who brought the holy Ganges to the South.

In fact, Rajendra went along with the army only up to some extent, rest of the conquest was headed by his chief commander only. With some inscriptional evidence, we get to know that Rajendra welcomes his victorious chief commander at Mahendragiri. To commemorate his victory, they together install a Vijayasthambam at the top of Mahendragiri.

More War Trophies in brief

The  war trophies are placed in various places in and around Gangaikonda Cholapuram. The main temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram shelters few of the important war trophies of Rajendra. A Sowrapeedam from the Nolambas is a beautiful artefact. Scholars assign it as a creation of 9th century. A lotus like shape spreaded over a square platform, Ashta-Dik-Palakas adorning in each corner while Arunan drive the chariot of Lord Surya which has seven horses. This is one of the sculpturally richest depiction of Suryapeedam.

Chalukya's Mahishasura Mardhini at Reddy Street in Poor State of Maintenance

The Mahamandapam of the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple shelters a Durga from Nolambas, Lord Surya (standing posture) from the Chalukyas and another significant sculpture of Saraswati from the Palas (placed right in front of the main Shrine of lord Shiva). Other than this, the Nandi in the Amman shrine on the northern side of the temple, twenty handed Mahishasuramardini from the Chalukyas enshrined separately are the notable war trophies within the temple complex.

Now coming back to the small villages around the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple, the next closest war trophy Mahishasura Mardini is sheltered and worshipped under a huge tree in the Reddy Street. It is saddening to see such artefacts of historic significance being maintained in a poor state. The next war trophy is the Mahishasura Mardini of Manmalai. This sculpture resembles the craftsmanship of the Guptas, probably from the Madhya Pradesh region.

Manmalai Durga - Redstone Sculpture - Gupta's Craftsmanship from Madhya Pradesh

Another treasure trove of war trophies are under the ownership of the ASI and is sheltered in a village called Sengamedu. These sculptures are now worshipped by the local villagers. These sculptures are from the Kalinga dynasty. Two pairs of Bhairava and Bhairavi sculptures, and other Mahishasura Mardini sculptures are worshipped and maintained in good condition. 

Sengamedu - Sculptures from the Kalinga Desa (Orissa)
Another sculpture of Chalukyas Mahishasura Mardini is placed in an Azhagar temple in a village called Saluppai which is five kilometers to the north of the Gangaikonda Cholapuram temple.

War Trophies at Tiruloki Temple

Thiruloki is a small village located near the Thirupanandhal temple and is 20 kms from the Gangaikonda Cholapuram Temple. Thiruloki has two important Shiva temples which give important historic information through its inscription. Thiruloki is also a derived name from Trilokya Maadevi Chaturvedi Mangalam, which was in existence from the period of Rajaraja I, since it is named after one of his wives.

Rishbhaarudar from the Chalukyas

Apart from being patronized by both father and son duo both the temples in this village hold a special place after the Rajendra’s Ganges expedition. Scholars say that Rajendra Chola brought the waters of Ganges to this temple in the first place and then took the holy water from here to the new capital. Also the Sundareswarar temple shelters two beautiful war trophies. One is the Rishabhaarudar, exquisitely sculpted in a single stone.  Lord Shiva and Parvati seated on a pedestal with a decorative arch mounted on the back of the Nandi. This beautiful creation is said to be of Nolamba’s craftsmanship. Another is the gorgeous sculpture of the Rathi Manmadhan, which is under worship can be found in the Mahamandapam of the temple. Dr. Kudavyil Balasubramanian says that this sculpture is of Lord Kartikeya and Deivanai from the North. Whether this is Lord Kartikeya or Manmadan, this is completely unique and artistically elegant. 

Rathi Manmadan (as Worshipped)

Apart from all these sculptures, there are some more war trophies that were brought from various parts of the ancient Indian kingdoms. 45 pillars from the Nolambas (Some part of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) were used to build the corridor around the Then-Kailayam Shrine at the Thiruvaiyaru Temple. There is a Gangaikonda Vinayagar from the Palas being worshipped at the Nageswaran Temple of Kumbakonam. Pala dynasty’s Natrajar at the temple of Melakadambur and Durga of Kollampudur are also the part of victory trophies that were brought into the Chola kingdom.

Majestic Mahishasura Mardhini at Sengamedu

All these war trophies speaks the value of the great success that Rajendra has achieved and further purifying his capital with the holy waters of the Ganges. Some of these beautiful sculptures are under worship which somehow are safeguarded in a way, but few other important sculptures are in bad conditions. One should definitely pay a visit to all these war trophies in order to experience the pride that Rajendra would have had when he brought all those to his kingdom. It was overwhelming for me to personally visit those trophies. I sincerely hope this blog post motivates the reader to at least go visit one of the war trophies of Rajendra The Great.

Yours East Gaterr