Udayarkudi Inscription – An In-depth Assessment
(By Kudavoiyal Balasubramanian- Original in Tamil)
(online at the link below in 3 parts)
(English translation by Ravi Rajagopalan)
In understanding medieval Tamil history or more specifically the royal Chola history, the Udayarkudi inscription is an important milestone of singular importance. This epigraph recorded as a granite inscription can be found today on the western wall of the inner sanctum of the Anantheesvaram temple complex of Lord Shiva in Udayarkudi Village near Kaattumannarkudi in Villupuram District of Tamilnadu. Marked as having been made in the second regnal year of King Rajakesari Varman (Raja Raja I) this epigraph was published by Prof Nilakanta Sastri in Epigraphia Indica cataloguing it in Volume XXI serial No 27 of the series. On the basis of this epigraph, in his book “History of Cholas” Dr Sastri has detailed the background to the murder of Aditya Karikala 𝟭. And therein he has advanced the view that in the assassination of Aditya Karikala, who was the eldest son of Sundara Chola (Parantaka II) and the elder brother of Raja Raja Chola I, Madurantaka Uttama Chola was guilty of treason as he conspired from behind. This assertion has since then become the blot besmirching the fair name of Madurantaka Uttama Chola.
The Evidence of the other Scholars:
Sri T V Sadasiva Pandarathar the author of the work ‘Later Cholas’ has argued emphatically against the above view advanced by Prof Nilakanta Sastri & emphasized that it was not possible for Madurantaka Uttama Chola to have had a hand in the royal assassination 𝟮. Nevertheless, he did not place convincing evidence to back up his claim. Sri R V Srinivasan writing about the said assassination much later in 1971 in his essay on Raja Raja Chola published in the Magazine of the Vivekananda College 𝟯 went on to advance his theory that it was Raja Raja and his sister Kundavai who were instrumental in liquidating their elder brother Aditya Karikala and vociferously invited rebuttals to this conclusion even as he raised a number of counter questions challenging the traditional view. Dr K T Tirunavukkarasu in his detailed rebuttal of Sri Srinivasan’s view, writing a piece for a collection of historical essays titled “Arunmozhi Aiyvu Thogudi”𝟰, comprehensively ruled out Madurantaka Uttama’s role in Aditya Karikala’s murder. In the said article, basing his view on a number of historical data points, Dr Tirunavukkarasu has gone on to explain that there was a delay in apprehending the perpetrators immediately thereafter and it was only during Raja Raja I’s second regnal year that the culprits were brought to book and given that the assassins were Brahmins, in accordance with the then prevailing Manu dharma sastra they could not be sentenced to death and were therefore sentenced otherwise. Apart from these above referred scholars many other professional historians and observers too have also cogently argued that Madurantaka Uttama could not be guilty of the said murder but none have cited any credible and irrefutable evidence to substantiate this view point beyond doubt.
The Evidence of the Novelists:
Late Kalki K Krishnamuthi who through his literary fiction ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ created an insatiable thirst for history in the minds of Tamil readers, kept this murder of Aditya karikala as the plot & center stage for this work. Therein he wove a story line enmeshing both real and imagined historical characters as the probable perpetrators of the murder but at the end he left the question as to the identity of the actual culprit tantalizingly open leaving it to the imagination of the Tamil reader. Writer/Wordsmith Balakumaran in his novel ‘Kadigai’ again belonging to the genre of literary fiction, ends his work with the murder of Aditya Karikala as its climax. And he too with his acumen and adept story telling convincingly portrays that even though the culprits were Brahmins the brain behind the assassination actually was Madurantaka Uttama. Even though works of fiction can be of no assistance or substitute for sound historical research, in so far as the murder of Aditya Karikala is concerned it has to be said that the assertion made by Prof Nilakanta Sastri as aforesaid has formed a solid foundation and fodder for the fiction authors. And this has resulted in the prevailing popular perception today that Madurantaka Uttama was the culprit.
The Udayarkudi Stone Inscription:
Let us now turn to the text of the actual inscription 𝟱 recorded on granite which makes a reference to the assassination of Aditya Karikala.
It runs thus:
‘svasti srI kO rAjakesari varmarukku yAndu rEndAvadu vadakarai Brhmadeyam vIranArAyana catuvEdimangalatu perunguri perumakkalukku cakkaravarthi srImukham
pAndiyanai talaikonda karikAla chozhanai kondru drOgigalAna sOman ……..<< illegible>>… thambi ravidAsanAna panchavan BrahmAdirAjanum ivandrambi paramEsvaranAna irumudichozha BrahmAdirAjanum ivargal udanpirandha malayanUrAnum ivargal thambimArum ivargal makkalidum ivar brahmanimAr petrAlum E ….<illegible>>…rAmathham pErappanmAridum ivargal makkalidam ivargalukku pillaikodutha mAmanmAridum thAyodu piranda mAmanmAridum ivargal udanpirandha pengalai vEttArinavum Aga ivvanaivar udamaiyum ANaikkuriyavAru kottaiyUr BrahmasrI rAjanum pullamangalathu chandrasEkara bhattanaiyum pErathandOm.thAngalum ivargal kankAniyOdum ivargal sOnnavAru nam ANaikkurivAru kudiyOdu kudipperum vilaikku vittruthalathiduka ivai kurukAdikkizhAn ezhuthu enru ipparisuvara
E srImukhathin mErpatta malayanUrAnAna pApanacEri rEvadAsavittanum ivan maganum, ivan thAi pEriya nangai chANiyum immUvaridhum Ana nilam srI vIranArAyana chaturvEdimangalathu sabhaiyAr pakkal vennaiyUr nAttu vennaiyUr UdaiyAn nakkan aravanaiyAn Ana pallava mutharaiya magan bharathanAna viyazha gajamalla pallavarAyanEn innilam pazhampadi irandE mukkAlE oru mAvum ahamanai Arum Aha innilamum immanaiyum nUtrorupatthi iru kazhanju pOn kudutthu vilaikondivvUr tiruvanandIsvarathu bhattArakar koyililE ivvAtai mEsha nAyatru jnAyitrukkizhamai petra pUrattAdi jnAnru chandrAdittavar Alvar koil munbu mUvAyiratharu nUtruvanAna nilaiambalathu thannEr atrum brAhmanan Oruvanukku nisa dambadi nAzhi nEllum Attaivattam Oru kAgam nisadham padhinaivar brAhmanar uNbadarkku Aga padinAru ivaRul Aivar sivayOgigal uNNavum vaithEn
Araiyan bharathanAna vyAzha gajamallapallavarayanEn I dharmam rakshikkindra mahAsabhaiyAr srI pAdangal En thalaimEl Ena.
The identity of ‘kO rAjakesari varmar’ referred in the Udayarkudi inscription:
The Chola Kings in lineal succession have alternatively prefixed their names with the title ‘rAjakEsari’ and ‘parakEsari’ and in this inscription the Royal appellation used is ‘kO rAjakEsari’ for the reigning King in whose name the authority to make this inscription is made out. In the absence of the specific reference to the reigning King’s first name or his Royal name conferred upon Coronation, we are forced to consider the possibility that this record must have been made in the name of any of the Chola Kings post the assassination of Aditya Karikala who had assumed the title of rAjakEsarI. Nevertheless, based on the reference to one ‘kurugAdi kizhAn’ an imperial Officer of the Chola Administration whose name is found mentioned in this record, it can be deduced that this inscription/record pertains only to the reign of Emperor Raja Raja Chola, for we find this Officer’s name mentioned in other inscriptions as well pertaining to Raja Raja’s period. Further based on this inference and the astral sign signified in line no 7 of the inscription being ‘mEsha gnAyitrukkizhamai petra pUrattAdi nAL’, it can be doubtlessly inferred that this grant was made during the reign of Raja Raja I.
The reference to Two dates/years in the inscription:
The inscription in its body refers to two dates/years signifying the events narrated in the inscription. The first being the one right at the outset (‘svasti SrI kO rAjakesari varmarukku yAndu rEndAvadu vadakarai’) which is the second regnal year of the reigning suzerain during which time the Royal Order/permission to perform the proposed action was dispatched. The second mention is of the time which is referred to in the 7th line ( ‘ivvaatai mEsha jnAyittrukkizhamai….’) of the said inscription which refers to the event/date on which the conveyance of the subject land was given effect to by the Mahasabha by conveying the land to Vyazhan Gajamallan. These two dates are different dates. However, Prof Nilakanta Sastri starts on the erroneous assumption that both the events are coterminous and proceeds to derive his conclusions.
Given the astral confluence signifying the date of the second event above being mEsha nAyattru (which is the tamil month of Chaitra) pUrattAdi vinmIn kUdiya jnAyitrukkizhamai (the Sunday coinciding with the star pUrattAdhi), the date/year in question in accordance with Indian Astronomical Ephemeris is 23 April CE 988. Assuming Raja Raja’s second year since ascension to be CE 986 or 987 (the first event), the same would be the year in which the Royal Order was dispatched to the Elders of the Udayarkudi granting Assent to the conveyance while the actual conveyance by this inscription pursuant to the said Assent was made ( an year perhaps later) only in CE 988.
Is this epigraph a Royal Proclamation/Order of Raja Raja?
Starting with Dr Sastri all historians and scholars who had provided their commentary on the inscription have represented that this inscription by itself is the original Royal Proclamation made by Raja Raja Chola by which the properties of the assassins of Aditya Karikala, who were labelled as traitors, were confiscated by the State and proceeded to build their case thereon. This is not true. A careful perusal of the inscription’s narrative would show that the first four lines are only the Royal Assent that was conferred by the reigning King Raja Raja Chola during his second regnal year (CE 986 or CE 987 latest) to the Elders of the village of Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam (Udayarkudi as it was known then). This Royal Assent granted for the conveyance of the property was a preamble to the actual conveyance done then by the Mahasabha/Elders in favour of Vyazhan Gajamalla (a mere land record). And therefore, this inscription should not be treated as a Royal Proclamation or Edict issued by Raja Raja directly.
The Identity of the Individual by/for whom the inscription was made:
According to the narrative in the inscription, an individual Bharathan also known as Vyazha Gajamalla Pallavarayan, son of ‘aravanaiyAn’ Pallava Muttharayan of Tiruvennainallur created an endowment in perpetuity for providing potable water supply source and for feeding 15 sivayogis inclusive of saivaite brahmanas, by purchasing from the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village consisting of lands measuring 2 ¾ velis & 1 mA and six house sites ( agamanai) for a sum of 112 gold coins. This purchase of land from the State and the consequential creation of this charitable endowment is what is evidenced by this inscription. It has to noted here that the creator /originator of this inscription is this individual Vyazha Gajamallan and is not Raja Raja.
The Details of the Land found in the Epigraph:
The inscription purports to document the purchase of 2 ¾ veli and 1 ma of land together with six house sites. Vyazha Gajamalla purchases this from the Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam village Mahasabha/Elders and the same is obvious from the phrase ‘sabhaiyaar pakkal’ occurring in the 6th line. Reviewing the language and the grammatical construct of the sentence and the usage of the word ‘pakkal’ ( EzhAm vEtrumai uruppu in tamil grammar) in conjunction with a similar usage seen in another Chola inscription ( SII VI 356) it is crystal clear that the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village, being a Chaturvedimangalam, were the sellers in the said conveyance and they sold it as Trustees. That the village was earlier a Royal tax-free gift of land to Brahmins (brahmadEyam) and was a resident settlement or enclave of Brahmins (Chaturvedimangalam) is obvious from the first line of the inscription.
And while so selling the land to an endowment being set up by an individual, as is practice, they as sellers disclosed the antecedents to their title to the property. The properties belonging to the killers of Aditya Karikala being traitors together with that of their immediate and close relatives ( dAyAdis) were confiscated by Royal Proclamation ( earlier) and pursuant to the same it stood vested with the Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Chaturvedimangalam Village represented by its Mahasabha or Elders. The epigraph does not disclose when and under whose reign the confiscation and attachment of the properties of the perpetrators and their relatives took place (earlier) nor does it detail the total quantum of such lands which were confiscated earlier enmasse perhaps through a Royal Proclamation. Such details would be subject matter of the specific and separate Royal Order or Proclamation that would have been issued then, in that behalf.
From out of the said lands so confiscated belonging originally to the assassins, their immediate families and relatives and which were in the custody of the grama sabha/village elders, a portion of which, included the lands of the 3 individuals namely rEvadAsa grAmavitthan of Malayanoor, his son and & his mother by name Nangai chAnI, land aggregating to 2 ¾ velis & 1 mA along with the house sites were sold off by the Elders to Vyazha Gajamalla for this endowment for a sum of 112 gold coins ( ‘kazhanju pOn is the Chola coinage). The details of the previous owners of this property was provided as a narrative to the title of the sellers, in this case being the Elders/Mahasabha of the Village.
The inscription if read in context, would also show that Raja Raja during his second regnal year had appointed two administrators namely Kottaiyur BrahmaSri Rajan and Pullamangalam Chandrasekara Bhattar for this confiscated property and by this srimukham (missive/Order) the King was granting the power to the Mahasabha/Elders to dispose of the confiscated property which had till date been held by them for and on behalf of the State and remit the consideration received, into the local treasury ( thalathiduga). And that was the context the initial line of the epigraph was providing as the preamble.
The reference in the preamble made to the Royal Order/permission/missive (Srimukham) has been misinterpreted by Dr Sastri to the effect that the perpetrators were arraigned only during the second year of Raja Raja’s reign and the said inscription by itself was the Royal Order of Confiscation of the property of the traitors. The same is not acceptable in the light of the foregoing. It has to be noted that nowhere does this epigraph mentions the apprehending of the culprits or the confiscation of their property and details of their lands so confiscated and attached. It can be stated that all that the preamble or the opening lines of the inscription conveys is that the sale was being executed pursuant to Raja Raja’s Royal Order according permission to the Village Mahasabha/Elders to sell the confiscated lands under supervision by the two named individuals and the lands having earlier been confiscated and attached by Royal Proclamation/Orders issued either during Sundara Chola’s reign or a little thereafter during Madurantaka Uttama’s reign. The Village’s Mahasabha after receiving the Royal permission ( srimukham) or assent to convey the land after an year or two, proceeded to give effect to the same by executing the sale of a portion of the original lot of lands which had been confiscated. The mistaken belief that this inscription (of Udayarkudi) by itself was the original Royal Order of Confiscation of property issued by Raja Raja has resulted in confusions beg faced by researchers down the line.
The Perpetrators & their Relatives:
The Udayarkudi inscription (found in the Thiruvanandeesvaram Temple of the Sri Parantaka Caturvedi Mangalam) has the following narrative about the identities of the perpetrators and their relatives as below.
“……..pAndiyanai talaikonda karikAla chozhanai kondru drOgigalAna sOman ……..<< illegible>>… thambi ravidAsanAna panchavan BrahmAdirAjanum ivandrambi paramEsvaranAna irumudichozha BrahmAdirAjanum ivargal udanpirandha malayanUrAnum ivargal thambimArum ivargal makkalidum ivar brahmanimAr petrAlum E ….<illegible>>…rAmathham pErappanmAridum ivargal makkalidam ivargalukku pillaikodutha mAmanmAridum thAyodu piranda mAmanmAridum ivargal udanpirandha pengalai vEttArinavum Aga ivvanaivar udamaiyum……”
The narrative of the above inscription upon examination makes it very clear that that only other three brothers namely Soman ( his alias is not decipherable in the inscription), Ravidasan alias Panchavan Brahmadirajan and Paramesvaran alias Irumudi Chola Brahmadirajan were the culprits/traitors who assassinated Aditya Karikala and since the other referred individuals are dealt with as ‘others’ (‘evagal’) it becomes obvious that these ‘others’ were only relatives of the 3 brothers and were not complicit otherwise to the said murder.
According to the narrative of this epigraph the original owner of the land and the house site (ahamanaigal) forming subject matter of this conveyance, is one pApanacEri rEvadAsa grAmavitthan hailing from Malayanoor (along with his son and mother) and he was a brother to the conspirators & obviously he did not participate in the said treacherous act. These individuals being related (dAyadIs) (though innocent) were therefore deemed culpable as well for the said murder and consequently their properties too were confiscated by the State, attached and was now being sold. It is pertinent to note that nowhere does this epigraph deals with the land & house site which stood in the name of the perpetrators themselves namely Soman, Ravidasan and Paramesvaran connected to the murder.
‘Brahmadirajan’ is a title bestowed by the Tamil sovereigns on high ranking Brahmin Officials in the Royal Service ( peruntharathu aluvalar). The portion of the inscription giving the titular appellation of the first of the perpetrators, mentioned in the inscription namely Soman has been damaged and is therefore not decipherable. The other two perpetrators bear the title of Panchavan Brahmadirajan, which is granted by Pandyan Sovereigns and that of Irumudichola Brahmadirajan, which is conferred by Chola Kings, to Brahmins who are senior ranking members of their Imperial Service. If we view the narrative of this inscription in totality, it can be logically deduced that the first of them being Soman, whose titular appellation is illegible must have been bearing an appellation (which is not decipherable) conferred most probably by the Pandyan sovereign.
The conspectus of these facts would show that it is definitive that the plot to kill Aditya Karikala was hatched only in the Pandya country. Dr Nilakanta Sastri while opining on inscriptions were Aditya Karikala proclaimed himself as ‘vIrapAndiyan talaikOnda kOperukEsari’ ( ‘the Royal who took the head of Veerapandya’) advances his view that he (Aditya Karikala) used the epithet as a mere figure of speech as to mean that he vanquished him and he did not literally behead him ( Veerapandya)𝟲 . While this view has prevailed till date, much after Dr Sastri’s times, very recently a copper plate inscription as a part of a collection dating back to times of Rajendra Chola has been unearthed at esAlam village, Villupuram Taluk in Tamilnadu, wherein it is unequivocally recorded therein that Aditya Karikala beheaded King Veerapandya’s head, hoisted it on a post and had it displayed at the entrance of the Tanjore Palace for all to see 𝟳. It was thus in revenge for this macabre act done wantonly in blatant disregard for wartime conventions, that Aditya Karikala came to be assassinated.
Born in Sri Parantaka Veeranarayana Caturvedimangalam (Udayarkudi) and having occupied high Offices under both Pandyan and Chola sovereigns, the siblings after being successful in their conspiracy must have in all probability left the Chola dominions. They must have fled either to the Pandya country or to the Chera Kingdom being their allies and must have lived in exile there for a considerable period of time. Their immediate families and relatives too must have migrated out of the Chola land. And it was therefore that the Chola regime must have confiscated and attached their lands and house dwellings. There is no doubt that the above said Imperial action to confiscate, must have taken place either during Sundara Chola’s reign itself or immediately after Madurantaka Uttama Chola’s ascension to the throne.
Madurantaka Uttama Chola’s benign rule, the great respect that Raja Raja Chola had for him and the affinity he enjoyed as evidenced by Raja Raja naming his own son as Madurantaka, the love and affection the Dowager Queen Mother Sembian Maadevi ( Madurantaka Uttama’s mother) had for Raja Raja even while as she was the matriarch of the Royal Household even after the tragic episode are all documented for posterity and they would all go to demonstrate that there is no basis whatsoever to foist the blame of murder on Madurantaka Uttama and thus castigating him so is unfounded.
The other allegation made against Raja Raja in this matter is that since the perpetrators of this murder were Brahmins he deigned not to punish them. This too is unfounded and unsubstantiated. It is well known that one of Raja Raja’s Commanders was Krishnan Raman alias Mummudi Chola Brahmadirajan, a Chola General and a Brahmin to boot. Again, in the Chalukya inscriptions which details the military campaign Raja Raja Chola undertook against the Western Chalukyan King Satyasraya, it is recorded that Raja Raja remorselessly killed brahmin soldiers, during the said expedition. Thus, it was quite normal during those times that Brahmins took to weapons and fought battles and were also killed in them. Viewed in this context it would be unacceptable to blame Raja Raja in this regard in the absence of any historical evidence whatsoever.
The Udayarkudi inscription is just an epigraph which in a line therein as a part of the background narrative provides information as to the assassins of Aditya Karikala. And it is not a Royal Edict disclosing the other details in connection with the assassination or the punishment that was meted to the perpetrators Thus, in sum the Udayarkudi inscription is only a record of an individual Bharathan alias Vyazha Gajamallan having purchased property to create a charitable endowment.
- The Colas, K A Nilakanta Sastri, University of Madras 1984, pp157-158
- Pirkaala Chozar Varalaaru, T V Sadasiva Pandaarathar, Annamalai University, 1974, pp 76-78
- A Note on the Accession of Raja Raja, R V Srinivasan, Vivekananda College Magazine, Madras 1971 p 13
- Aditya Karikala’s Murder – A Review by K T Tirunavukkarasu, Arunmozhi Research Collection, Tamilnadu Archaeological Department, Chennai 600028, 1988 pp143-153
- No 27, The Udayarkudi Inscription of Rajakesarivarman, K A Nilakanta Sastri, Epigraphia India Vol XXI pp 165-170
- The Colas, K A Nilakanta Sastri, University of Madras 1984, p 154
- Archeological Finds in South India, Esalam Bronzes and Copper Plates by Dr R Nagaswamy, Bulletin DE 1’ Ecole Francaise D’Extreme Orient Tome LXXVII, Paris, 1987 p14