Rajendra Chola I – Two Distinct Deeds of the World’s Greatest Naval Champion

Rajendra Chola I (regnal years 1012-1044), the son of Rajaraja Chola I,  is undoubtedly one of the greatest Emperors the Tamil Land, India or even the World has ever produced. His successful expeditions, in the neighbouring Kingdoms of yesteryear Thamizhagam, as far as the Ganges, surpassing the Kalingas and conquering the Palas, earned him the title – ‘Gangai Konda Chozhan’ – ‘The Chola who conquered the Ganges’.

He learnt political and economic warfare from his accomplished and triumphant Father-  Rajaraja I, the Great. Rajendra I proved that, none other than him could have taken the victorious Baton of the Cholas, not only to the neighbourhood, but to the several countries in South East Asia as well. His successful overseas expeditions documented in his inscriptions, prove his mettle as a Skillful Warrior, a Tactful Administrator, and the most striking feature of all, being a Maritime Champion – Political and Economic.

Tamil Kings and their zeal for constructing Temples is a well acknowledged fact. Temples of Tamilzhagam/Tamilagam are not only religious entities, but store houses of history. The passion with which the rulers – Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas or their Vassal Kings, have transformed Temples into Architectural wonders, can be felt in each and every Temple of South India. But, the credit of engineering the temples into Massive Monuments with Intricate Sculptural Marvels, unable to capture the total essence of the master piece, even in the best technologically advanced cameras of the present times, is only one of the several distinguished achievements of the Cholas.

That Temples received immense patronage from the Rulers, who showed keen interest in documenting history through inscriptions, is very well known . Temples, being store houses of historic treasures, also preserve several surprises and distinctive facts to be unearthed.  Two such instances associated with Rajendra I’s Temples, accentuates the distinct qualities of the Emperor.

Both instances involve two special women in the life of the accomplished son of Emperor Rajaraja I, the Great.

One, His Lady Love from Thiruvarur, Nangai Paravai. The respect and the special position that the King gave to His special friend and beloved; and her specific interest in Temples and Religious deeds would be discussed in this post, with the available inscriptional evidences.

Two, Rajendra I’s step mother Panchavan Madevi. It is normal for a King to build a Monument in memory of His Queen, or a Son for his Mother ; But building a Temple in long lasting memory of a Step-mother, is never heard of. Temples built in honour of the dead is called Pallippadai in Tamil. Son of Vanavan Madevi and Rajaraja I, Rajendra I, was much attached to his step-mother, Panchavanmadevi. Rajendra’s Pallippadai in memory of Panchavanmadevi would be discussed in another separate post.

A recent radio programme in All India Radio, Thiruchirappalli, anchored by Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli, gave a fine introduction to the special relationship between Rajendra Chola I and Paravai Nangai. Dr. Kalaikkovan, a veteran in History, Temple Inscriptions, Architecture and a connoisseur of Arts and Music, is also well known as a charming narrator of history, comprehensible to common man. The elegance with which, he explained the beautiful story of Paravai Nangai encouraged this write-up.

My respectful gratitude to Dr. R. Kalaikkovan, for mentoring and providing authentic evidences and patient explanations, on Rajendra I and Paravai Nangaiyar’s relationship.

Rajendra Chola I and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar

The temple of Thiruvarur holds a special place in the life of Rajendra Chola I. Two of the Inscriptions in the temple, talk of Paravai Nangai. The inscriptions do not mention her as Paravai Nangai, but with a special status – Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar. Anukki, in tamil means female friend or confidante. As she commanded a much respectful position,  she is introduced as Anukkiyar – with the suffix ‘ar’ that stands for reverence.

First, the story of Paravai Nangai, adapted from the Radio Talk of Dr. Kalaikkovan. During the era of the medieval Cholas, there were several Residential Dance Schools, called Thalichery. Qualified dancers from Thalicherys were sent to perform at different Temples in the Chola Mandalam. The city of Thiruvarur was very much popular for its Thalichery. It was called ‘Thiruvarur Periya Thalicherry’.

During the reign of Rajaraja I, many distinguished dancers were selected from Thiruvarur to perform at the Thanjai Peruvudaiyar Koyil – Rajarajecharam Temple.

The Beloved Friend of Rajendra I, Paravai Nangai too, must have been a product of the Illustrious Thiruvarur Periya Thalichery. As per the interesting narration, after taking over from his Father, as the Emperor of the Cholas, Rajendra Chola I visited several places in Cholamandalam. According to an inscription, he visited Thiruvalanchuzhi, near present day Kumbakonam and had lunch in the Temple Gardens. The same way, on one of his visits to Thiruvarur, he must have met Paravai, the beautiful Dancer.  She must have performed in front of the Lord. Rajendra must have viewed her dance. One of the apt Titles that Rajendra I possessed was ‘Panditha Cholan’- one who is well versed in Arts and Literature.  A true Connoisseur of Arts, Rajendra must have developed a soft corner for Paravai and her Art of Dance.

There are two Inscriptions in the temple of Thiruvarur, that provide evidence of the significant influence of Paravai Nangaiyar.

  1. Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajendra I, provides ample information on the religious services offered by Anukkiyar to the temple of Thiruvarur
  2. Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajadhiraja I, son of Rajendra I, provides evidence of the influence of Paravaiyar. This inscription is of additional significance, as it talks of the respect of the Son towards the special friend of the Father.

Rajendra’s inscription is discussed in this post.

Thiruvarur Inscription of Rajendra I

The long inscription is dated 1032 ACE, the 20th regnal year of Rajendra Chola I. It starts with the phrase ‘Thirumanni Valara…’, the Meikeerthi of Rajendra I. It describes in detail, the enormous amount of jewellery, land and lamps donated by Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar, the Lady Love of the Emperor, to the temple of Thiruvarur. The interest that Paravai Nangai took in reconstructing and beautifying the Temple and its premises is remarkable.

The weights in gold used to built the vimanam of the sanctum sanctorium, the weights in copper used to decorate the doors, the weights of the enormous kuthu vilakku (Lamp) donated and the number of precious stones and pearls offered to the temple by her, are provided in detail.

The significance of this inscription is multi dimensional. This can be ascertained by the contributions of Paravai Nangai to the temple of Thiruvaroor.

Paravai Nangai’s contributions to the temple of Thiruvarur

There were Anukkiyar – friends and close confidantes to Kings, from the times of Adita Chola, in the Chola dynasty. They were all known to the world by their endowments and charities to temples.

But, the difference in Paravai Nangai is in the status, she enjoyed. Her donations to the temple are incomparable, coming from an Anukki of the King.  The inscription also showers light on important mile stones of the Temple. The mile stones of being converted into stone structure and beautification with gold plating of the Vimanam, done by Paravai Nangai, make her name an inseparable part of the temple and its glory, till today.

 

Important segments of the inscription

In the 18th regnal year of the Emperor, The Temple with the principal deity Udaiyar Veedhi Vidangathevar of Thirvarur was converted into a stone structure, by Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar.

 

Udaiyar Sri Rajendra Choladevarkku yaandu

irubadhavathu udaiyar Sri Rajendra Chola Devar Anukkiyar

Paravai Nangaiyar `kshatriya Sigamani Valanaattu

Tiruvarur Kootrathu Thiruvarur Udaiyar

Veedhi Vidangathevar Thirukkatrali eduppiththu

 

‘Thirukkatrali Eduppiththu’  signifies the conversion of the existing structure to stone.

 

In the 18th regnal year of Rajendra I, the work of gold plating and copper plating of the temple, started from the 38th day and was completed on the 199th day. The Vimanam, walls and the entrance of the temple’s Sanctum Sanctorium were plated with Gold; The doors and pillars of the Mañdapam were plated with Copper. The weight of Gold añd Copper used in the beautification process is quite overwhelming. That, Gold weighing 20643 kalanju and copper plates weighing 42000 palam were used is only a fraction of the various contributions of the Lady.

Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar Yaandu

……………………………………………….

………………………………………………

……………………………………………..

meintha pon irupathinaayirathu arunootru

narpathu mukkazhanje ezhu manjaadiyum

……………………………………….

……………………………………………………ik

Koyil munbil mandapathu soozhntha

kodunkaiyilum sopana koodathilum

kathavilum meintha pon narpaththu

eerairaththu…………………..

 

She donated Chowries for the deity with Golden handles. Why I chose to cite this among the other donations is because, these verses are one among the few places, the name of Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar is mentioned along with Rajendra I, in the inscription.

SriRajendra Choladevar Anuk

kayak Paravai Nangaiyar vaitha ponnin

kaichamarai ondru………………………….

 

The volume of the jewellery offered by Paravai to the temple is humongous. Below is a portion of the enormous amount of precious stones and pearls that were offered by Paravai. In one portion, the inscription talks of- 18 Rubies, 252 diamonds, 24 Rubies, 246 diamonds.

 

Among the several lamps that she donated, were two special and huge Pavai Vilakku- one named ‘Pachai Pavai Umai Nangai’ and the other named ‘Pavai Sariya Mulai Nangai’.

Pachai Pavai Umai Nangai

 

Pavai Sariya Mulai Nangai


 

The Exceptional Status of Paravai Nangai

Apart from the above long lists of Paravai Nangai’s contributions to the temple,  few select verses in the inscription, reveal to the world, the influence Paravai Nangai enjoyed and the special position accorded upon her by the Emperor.

Let’s imagine this situation. The King decides to visit the temple. It is normal for a King to witness huge fanfare and reverence from his subjects, on a temple visit, while his Chariot passes the streets. It would be an additional sight of delight for the subjects, to pay obeisance to the King, if he is with his Queen. Such occasions of Kings, Queens, Crown Princes, Princesses, Queen Mothers, Daughters in Law and many more from the Royal Clan, visiting Temples and their endowments have been recorded in Temple Inscriptions.

In the context of this post, the King, Rajendra I decided to visit the temple. He desired to visit with his Beloved, Anukkiyar Paravai Nangai. What makes the incident unique, is that, the King took Paravai Nangai along with him on his Chariot. This is one exclusive recognition that he bestowed upon her.

Apart from taking a tour, with Paravai to the Temple, Rajendra also placed on record in his temple inscription, that He and Paravai Nangai travelled on a Chariot to the Temple.

This specific segment of the inscription presents three facts-

1.Rajendra I and Paravai arrived at the Temple. One Vilakku/Lamp was placed at the entrance point, probably where the Chariot drove into the Temple premises.

………………….Sri Rajendra Chola

Devarum Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyarum

thermelezhundharuli puguthikki niluda

vaitha vilakkondrinaal

 

2. Two Kuthu Vilakkus/Standing Lamps were placed inside the Sanctum Sanctorium.

.………………………..Udaiyar SriMoolasthanamudaiyar

Koyilil Ullalai Kuthuvilakku irandum

 

3. One Kuthu Vilakku/Standing Lamp was placed, on the spot where Rajendra I and Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar stood together and worshipped the Lord.

Udaiyar SriRajendra Choladevarum

Anukkiyar ParavaiNangai yaarum nirkumidanth

theriym Kuthuvilakku ondrum

 

The inscription

 

These facts documented by Rajendra I, is a significant proof of his special relationship with Paravai Nangai, which he doesn’t hesitate to permenantly document . The inscription seems to emphasise on the dignity,  he wished to confer upon her. Throwing light on certain defined moments, like placing lamps on the spot of worship, is yet another way to reiterate, the Stature the Lady enjoyed, in his heart and beyond.

Paravai Nangai, suggested to have hailed from one of the Premier Residential Dance Schools of Thiruvarur, known as Periya Thalichery, is acknowledged in the inscription as Anukkiyar Paravai Nangaiyar. The transition from a Danseuse to a Revered Donor, nothing lesser than a Royal Patron, makes Paravai an interesting part of Rajendra’s life. Her endowments to the temple, seem unparalleled in many ways.

The King provides the world, a glimpse of his Profound Affection with honesty. That Paravai Nangai was acknowledged for her Generosity and Charity, especially, with no personal or official holding in the Empire, should have been due to the array of good qualities that she possessed.

The most noteworthy segment of the relationship, lies in the inscription of Rajendra I’s son, Rajadhiraja’s Thiruvarur inscription, which would be discussed in the next post. The inscription reiterates the honour extended upon Paravai Nangai, as his father’s Special Companion or Anukki. The acceptance of Paravai Nangai by Rajadhiraja, is yet another recognition of the Lady’s noticeable reputation.

Note:

All images of inscriptions- Photo Courtesy:  Dr. Kalaikkovan, Founder, Dr. M. Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Thiruchirapalli.