Chola Dynasty, Uttama Chola (973-985 AD) Silver Kahavanu (Kasu). R!
Condition: A nice VF+
Mint Period: 973-985 AD
Denomination: Kahavanu (Kasu)
Reference: Mitchiner Tamilnadu-Kerala 324, Mitchiner 723. R!
Obverse: Tiger seaterd right (bow and torch behind, umbrella above), facing two upright fishes, behind which is a torch.
Reverse: Inscription (Uttama Cholah).
Chola dynasty was a Tamil dynasty which was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in southern India. The earliest datable references to this Tamil dynasty are in inscriptions from the 3rd century BC left by Asoka, of Maurya Empire; the dynasty continued to govern over varying territory until the 13th century AD.
The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River, but they ruled a significantly larger area at the height of their power from the later half of the 9th century till the beginning of the 13th century. The whole country south of the Tungabhadra was united and held as one state for a period of two centuries and more. Under Rajaraja Chola I and his son Rajendra Chola I, the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-east Asia. The power of the new empire was proclaimed to the eastern world by the celebrated expedition to the Ganges which Rajendra Chola I undertook and by the overthrow after an unprecedented naval war of the maritime empire of Srivijaya, as well as by the repeated embassies to China.
During the period 1010–1200, the Chola territories stretched from the islands of the Maldives in the south to as far north as the banks of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh. Rajaraja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed parts of what is now Sri Lanka and occupied the islands of the Maldives. Rajendra Chola sent a victorious expedition to North India that touched the river Ganges and defeated the Pala ruler of Pataliputra, Mahipala. He also successfully invaded kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago. The Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of the 13th century with the rise of the Pandyas, who ultimately caused their downfall.
The Cholas left a lasting legacy. Their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal in building temples has resulted in some great works of Tamil literature and architecture. The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temples in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activity. They pioneered a centralised form of government and established a disciplined bureaucracy.
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Uttama Chola ascended the Chola throne c. 970 CE succeeding Parantaka Chola II. Uttama was the son of the illustrious Sembiyan Mahadevi and the cousin of Parantaka II.
The circumstances under which Uttama ascended the Chola throne is surrounded by controversy and mystery. Uttama was the son of Gandaraditya and his queen Sembiyan Mahadeviyar. At the time of Gandarditya’s death Uttama must have been a very young child. Due to his immaturity, his rights to the Chola throne were probably set aside and Gandaraditya’s younger brother Arinjaya was crowned king.
Arinjaya ruled for a very short time – possibly for less than a year and on his death, his son Parantaka II (Sundara Chola) succeeded him. By the time Maduranthaka was old enough to claim the crown, Sundara Chola had two sons – Aditya Karikalan (the one who took the head of the Vira Pandya) and Arulmozhivarman.
Aditya II was assassinated c. 969 CE under mysterious circumstances. Sundara Chola, heartbroken due to this personal tragedy, appointed Maduranthaka Chola as the heir apparent. Some also believe that Maduranthaka wanted to be the ruler but there is no evidence to prove this assertion. Others believe that Madhuranthaka had a hand in Aditya Karikala's assassination—again there is no evidence to support this claim. What is clear from the Thiruvalangadu plates is that there was question on ascension and Arulmozhivarman chose to step aside for Madhuranthaka. Some say that Arulmozhivarman (the future Rajaraja Chola I) chose to do this to avoid civil war but again there is no evidence to support this claim. For, according to the Tiruvalangadu plates, after the death of Aditya II Karikala, the people wanted Arulmozhivarman - Aditya II Karikala's brother to be their king, but that noble prince refused to accept the offer saying that so long as his uncle Uttama-Chola wanted to be the king, he would step aside. In the case of Arulmolivarman, the description in the plates differ from his list of conquests in that they do not mention the conquest of Kandalur Salai and other such conquests. Historians brush this aside and have suggested that the composer of the plates of Rajendra Chola I may have left out the insignificant portions of his father, i.e., Arulmozhivarman. Nevertheless, we get a good idea of the list of conquests of the Rajendra Chola.
We learn from an inscription dated during Rajaraja’s time that the properties of some persons were confiscated as they had been convicted for treason. It is also shown that these persons were involved in the conspiracy to kill Aditya II. We can safely gather that although Aditya II was killed in 969 C.E., no action had been taken by Uttama during his reign to bring justice to the perpetrators. K.A.N. Sastry in his authoritative Colas says that based on an inscription at the temple at Udayarkudi, circumstantial evidence pointed to Uttama’s culpability in the assassination.
However, later research indicates that Sastry may be wrong in this claim, and possibly interpreted the Tamil inscriptions incorrectly. It seems reasonable to conclude that if there was any evidence against Uttama Chola, Rajaraja's son Rajendra would not have assumed the coronation name of Madhurathaka II.
There is every indication Uttama was religious and upstanding. An ardent Shiva devotee (as seen by inscriptions in Konnerirajapurama aka Thirunallam or in Kanchipuram), it was Uttama, under the guidance of his mother, who codified the temple patterns, epigraphy, art, sculpture, and the keeping of administrative records.
Not much is known about the military conquests of Uttama. The Chola army seems to have been in continued battles with the Pandyas and their ally the Sinhalas in Illam or Sri Lanka. Several Chola coins of Uttama have been found in the Pandya country and in Eelam as proof of Uttama’s activities there. We have an copper-plate inscription of him, now at the Government Museum Chennai. It bears the symbol of a seated tiger with two fish beside it and bears the line This is the matchless edict of the King who taught justice to all the Kings in his realm. But the genealogical section of the plates was lost. However we do have the appendix portion at the end.
There are indications he upgraded the army, not just in troop levels but also in quality and organization. It is known through inscriptions that, at least from Uttama Chola's time, warriors were provided with waistcoats of armour.
An important general during his reign was Paluvettaraiyar Maravan Kandanar, who also served under Sundara Chola. His son Kumaran Maravan also served Uttama Chola.
Yet another chief Ambalavan Paluvurnakkan (also known as Vikramasola-Maharajan of Kuvalalam) features during Uttama Chola's rule and continues into Rajaraja I's reign.
Uttama Chola had numerous queens. The names of some of them were Orattanan (Urattayana) Sorabbaiyar Tribhuvana-Mahadeviyar (chief queen), Kaduvettigal Nandippottairaiyar (probably a Pallava princess), and Siddhavadavan Suttiyar (related to Vikramasola-Miladudaiyar a prominent feudal king who ruled over Miladu part of present South Arcot District). His father named him Gandan Madhurantakan alias Uttama Chola after his paternal uncles. Unlike some of the other kings of the Chola empire, he took after his mother and was very pious. He is known to have shown compassion to even his enemies.
As with most ancient Indian kings, Uttama Chola was religiously tolerant. Although a Saivaite (worshipper of Siva), he also donated to temples dedicated for Vishnu especially to the Ullagaladar temple. He also granted large degrees of autonomy to his districts. He brought in best talent from other kingdoms. Kachipeedu (modern Kanchipuram) is also mentioned as one of his prominent cities. He is known to have contributed money, cattle, sheep to temples in modern Kumbakonam, Thirunallam (modern Konnerirajapuram), Thiruvallarai, Thirupatturai, Thirunedugalam, Thiruvisalur, Thirunaraiyur, Thiruvalangadu, Thirukkodika, etc.
Uttama Chola's mother pioneered the process of kalpani—converting brick, mortar, and wooden structures into granite and there is inscriptional evidence to show that he actively funded his mother in this work. She survived this king and lived on for another 16 years into the reign of Rajaraja I.
Two sculptures of Uttama Chola (Madhuranthaka Devar) and his mother can be found in the Southern wall of the inner Prakara of the Konnerirajapuram (aka Thirunallam) temple near Kumbakonam. The inscription under the sculpture identifying Sembiyan Mahadevi identifies her and the Archealogical Survey of India interprets the bearded man behind her as Gandaraditya Chola.
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