Aditya I

Aditya I (Tamil:முதலாம் ஆதித்த சோழன்) (c. 871 C.E. – c. 907 C.E.), the son of Vijayalaya, was the first great Chola king of South India who extended the Chola dominions by the conquest of the Pallavas.

Pallava Civil War

During the invasion of the Chola country, the Pandya king Varagunavarman II became an ally of Nripatunga, the eldest son of the Pallava king Nandivarman III.

When Nandivarman died in 869 C.E. differences arose between Nripatunga and his stepbrother Aparajita, probably owing to the latter’s ambition to rule the kingdom on his own right. Both sides looked for allies. Nripatunga continued to have Varaguna Pandya by his side while Aparajita allied with the Ganga king Prithvipathi I and with Aditya Chola I.

The rival armies met at Sripurambiyam near Kumbakonam c. 885 C.E. The armies of Pandyas and Nripatunga Pallava were routed by Aparajita Pallava and Aditya I Chola.

Kalki Krishnamurthy in his famous (five volume, 400 episodes) epic Tamil novel "Ponniyin Selvan" describes this battle in one of his episodes.

This battle changed the course of South India history in the same manner as the Battles of Panipat, Plassy, and Buxar did for India's History. The following is the English version of the episode in the book. Welcome historical proof/disproof of this episode.

The Chola and Pallava army was staring at their impending defeat against the Pandyas. King Vijayalaya who understood that the Cholas would never be able to regain the kingdom if they lost this war somehow heard of this and arrived at the battlefield. He was 90 years old, had two hands, one leg and one eye.

He looks at Aditya I (his son), Aparajita and the other generals and roars, "Give me one elephant". The generals reply, "all our elephants were killed by the Pandya bow-men". "Give me one chariot", Vijayalaya yells. "Mighty Sir, all our chariots were bought down by the Pandya horse-men", the generals cringe.

"One horse, give me one horse" yells Vijayalaya. "Oh lion, all our horses were trampled to death by the Pandya elephants" is the reply.

"At least you can give me a hundred strong men and two swords", Vijayalaya mocks.

Upon this, a hundred volunteers come forward and are made to stand in pairs - one behind the other in one column of 50 rows. Vijayalaya asks the two in the first row to lift him, and ordered the men to go to the battlefield. Vijayalaya's column looks like a flimsy twig before the mighty pandya armies spread out like the sea.

Vijayalaya orders the charge and the 100-soldier column rips through the Pandya army, with Vijayalaya wielding the sword so fast that it looked like a Chakra (wheel). Pandya soldiers, chariots and horsemen who never expected this were stunned by the ferocious attack. When the first row of two men who carried Vijayalaya fell, the second row lifted Vijayalaya up, then the third row and so on. Aditya, Aparajita, the generals and the rest of the army look at it dumbfolded, but only for a moment. With renewed vigor, they attack the Pandya army and this time there is no stopping them.

Aditya I’s Ascendency

Although the victor of the Sripurambiyam battle was Aparajita, the real gains went to Aditya I Chola. This battle ensured the end of Pandya power in the south. Pandya Varagunavarman renounced his throne and turned an ascetic. The grateful Aparajita not only allowed Aditya I Chola to keep the territories won by Vijayalaya Chola, but also to add new territories from the defeated Pandyas.

Aditya I’s invasion of the Pallava Country

During 903 C.E., the 32nd year of his reign, Aditya I Chola, not satisfied with his subordinate position, planned and carried out an attack on his erstwhile overlord, the Pallava king Aparajita. In the battle that ensued, Aditya pounced upon Aparajita when he was mounted on an elephant and killed him. That spelt the end of the Pallava rule in Tondaimandalam (north Tamil Nadu) and the whole of the Pallava kingdom now became Chola territory. This spelt the effective end of the once great Pallava empire in the history of South India.

The conquest of the Tondaimandalam earned for Aditya I the epithet "Tondainadu pavina Rajakesarivarman" (தொண்டைநாடு பாவின இராசகேசரிவர்மன்) - "Rajakesarivarman who overran Tondainadu".

The Conquest of Kongu

Aditya I next conquered the Kongu country in the south west of Tamil Nadu, perhaps from the Pandya king Viranarayana.

Relations with the Cheras

Friendly relations appear to have existed between the Cheras and the Cholas in the reign of Aditya I. The Chera contemporary Sthanu Ravi is stated in inscriptions to have received royal honours from Aditya. AdityaI ’s son, Parantaka I married a daughter of Sthanu Ravi.

Aditya’s contributions to Hinduism

Aditya I is claimed to have built a number of temples for Siva along the banks of the Kaveri. The Kanyakumari inscription gives us the information that Aditya I was also known by the surname Kodandarama. There is a temple near the town of Tondaimanarrur called Kodandaramesvara, also mentioned in its inscriptions by the name Adityesvara. This seems to have been built by Aditya I.

Death and Succession

In an inscription Aditya is distinguished by the epithet "Tondaimanarrur tunjina udaiyar (தொண்ைடமானரூர் துஞ்சின உைடயார்)- "the king who died at Tondaimanarrur". Aditya I died in 907 C.E. at Tondaimanarrur. His son Parantaka I built a Siva temple over his ashes. Aditya I was survived by his queens Ilangon Pichchi and Vayiri Akkan alias Tribhuvana Madeviyar. Besides these two queens Aditya I also had a mistress named Nangai Sattaperumanar as evidenced from an inscription.

Aditya I had a long and victorious reign during which he laid the foundation of the future greatness of the Chola empire.


  • Tamil And Sanskrit Inscriptions Chiefly Collected In 1886 - 87, E. Hultzsch, Ph.D., Published by Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1935). The CōĻas, University of Madras, Madras (Reprinted 1984).
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). A History of South India, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002).

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