Thursday, March 17, 2011

Karikala Chola

Period: Not known; between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD

Karikala Chola was the most popular king among the early Chola kings. Although there are lot of historical proofs and ancient poems are available to proove the existence of this king, there are a lot of mythological stories associated with this kings. It is very difficult to differentiate the historical incidents and mythological incidents in Karikala's history.

It is believed that Karikala Chola ruled around 2nd century BC or 2nd century AD during Sangam period. He was the son of the king Ilanchet Chenni. His mother was Azhundurven's daughter. As per some stories, Karikalan lost his father in his young age. His enemies put him behind the bars. While escaping from the prison, his legs got caught in the fire in the prison. Hence he got the name 'Karikalan' which means 'burnt legs' in Tamil language.

The ancient Tamil literature 'Pattinaththu Palai' talks about Karikala Chola and his great victory in the battle of Venni. Venni is a small place near Tanjore in Tamil Nadu. In the battle of Venni, it is evident that Karikala Chola won Chera king, Pandya king and 11 other small princes together. The reason for this battle is unknown. In this battle, the Chera king got hurt on his back. The Chera king Peruncheralathan, being the legendary ancient Tamil king and being the one who followed the culture of ancient Tamil warrior, committed suicide due to this. The poet Venni Kuyaththiyar, a friend of Karikalan, witnessed this battle and sung about the same.

Karikala Chola won nine princes together in the battle of Vagai Paranthalai which was sung by Paranar. Due to these victories Oviyars and Aruvalars surrendered to him.

There is a version which claims that he even won Himalayas in the north and Sri Lanka in the south.

Karikalan was a religious king. He gave importance to irrigation during his period. He built Kallanai dam near Trichy in South India, which is considered as one of the oldest water regulator structure which is still in use. He converted many forests into fields.

As per some stories, he married a Velir princess from a place called Nangur. His daughter Adimanti married the Chera princess Attanathi. As Attanathi died in Kaveri flood, Adimanti committed suicide.

As per the old Tamil literature Silappatikaram, this king invaded till Himalayas and won Magada, Vajra and Avanti kings.

Nalankilli who ruled from Puhar city and fought with Nedunkilli is believed to be the son of Karikala Chola. Karikala also had another son named Mavalathan.

There are some legends without proof such as the elephant choosing him as the king by putting garland, his invasion to Kanchipuram and the movement of Velirs to Tondaimandalam by him.

There are some scholars who believe that there were two Karikalans and not just one.

Karikalan was definitely a powerful king. Not only Vijayalaya Chola, but even Telugu Cholas and few princes from Kannda land used to claim that they belonged to Karikalan dynasty.

The references about this king are found in ancient Tamil books such as Silappadhikaram, Porunar Aattruppadai, Pattinapalai, Ettu Thokai, Periya Puranam and Kalingaththu Barani.

The king supported Tamil literature. His uncle Irumbidar Thalaiyar was a poet. During his period, Uruthiran Kannanar sang him in Pattina Palai; Mudaththamak Kanniyaar sang him in Porunar Aattru Padai; also, poets like Kaviripoompattinaththu Karikkannnaar, Konattu Erichalur Madalan Madurai Kumaranaar and Maruththuvan Damodaranaar sang his praises.

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