Raja Raja Chola I (Tamil: ராஜ ராஜ சோழன்) born Arulmozhi Thevar(also called as Raja Kesari Varman Raja Raja Devar and respectfully as Peruvudaiyar), popularly known as Raja Raja the Great, is one of the greatest emperors of the Tamil Chola Empire of India who ruled between 985 and 1014 CE. He established the Chola empire by conquering the kingdoms of southern India expanding the Chola Empire as far as Sri Lanka in the south, and Kalinga (Orissa) in the northeast. He fought many battles with the Chalukyas in the north and the Pandyas in the south. By conqueringVengi, Rajaraja laid the foundations for the Later Chola dynasty. He invaded Sri Lanka and started a century-long Chola occupation of the island.
He streamlined the administrative system with the division of the country into various districts and by standardizing revenue collection through systematic land surveys. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, he built the magnificent Peruvudaiyar Temple (also known as the Brihadeeswarar Temple) inThanjavur and through it enabled wealth distribution amongst his subjects. His successes enabled his son Rajendra Chola I to extend the empire even further.
Rajaraja Chola was born as the third child of Parantaka Sundara Chola and Vanavan Maha Devi. After a long apprenticeship of an heir apparent, he ascended the throne after the death of Uttama Chola.During the lifetime of his father Sundara Chola, Arulmozhi had carved a name for himself by his exploits in the battles against the Sinhala and Pandyan armies. Sundara Chola’s eldest son and heir apparent Aditya II was assassinated under unclear circumstances. Uttama, as the only child of Gandar Aditya, wanted the Chola throne as he felt it was his birthright. After the death of Aditya II, Uttama forced Sundara Chola to declare him as their apparent ahead of Arulmozhi.The Thiruvalangadu copper-plate inscriptions say:
“…Though his subjects…entreated Arulmozhi Varman, he…did not desire the kingdom for himself even inwardly “.
This was to say that Raja Raja was very much legally elected through the kind of democratic process followed by Cholas as seen in their Uttiramerur inscription. No other interpretation of the same is correct. Another example of such a process is selection to Pallava throne of Sri Nandi Varman II. Inasmuch as it could very much be possible that the king rejected the offer in order to continue to devote time and energy to build the resources to realize the Cholan military objectives. The assertion seems to be very much true as we see right from the beginning how the king was involved in the Cholan expeditions and also the organized structure of their military. Uttama made a compromise with Sundara Chola that Uttama will be succeeded by Arulmozhi and not his own son. The Thiruvalangadu inscription again states:
- “Having noticed by the marks (on his body) that Arulmozhi was the very Vishnu, the protector of the three worlds, descended on earth, [Uttama] installed him in the position of yuvaraja (heir apparent) and himself bore the burden of ruling the earth…”
The construction of the temple is said to have been completed on the 275th day of the 25th year of his reign. After its commemoration the temple and the capital had close business relations with the rest of the country and acted as a centre of both religious and economic activity. Year after year villages from all over the country had to supply men and material for the temple maintenance.