: கரிகால சோழன்
) was the greatest among the early Chola
kings of the Sangam
age in South India
. He was the son of Ilamcetcenni
and ruled around 120 CE.
He was also known by the epithets Karikala Peruvallattan (கரிகால பெருவளத்தான்) and Thirumavalavan (திருமாவளவன்).
The story of Karikala is mixed with legend and anecdotal information gleaned from Sangam literature
. Karikala has left us no authentic records of his reign. The only sources available to us are the numerous mentions in Sangam poetry. The period covered by the extant literature of the Sangam is unfortunately not easy to determine with any measure of certainty.
Pattinappaalai, Porunaraatruppadai and a number of individual poems in Akananuru and Purananuru have been the main source for the information that is attributed to Karikala.
Karikala was the son of Ilamcetcenni ‘…distinguished for the beauty of his numerous war chariots..’
. The name Karikalan means 'the man with the charred leg' and perpetuates the memory of a fire accident in the early years of his life. Poruna-raat-ruppadai
describes the legend of this incident as follows:
- The king of Urayur Ilancetcenni married a Velir princess from Azhundur and she became pregnant and gave birth to Karikala. Ilamcetcenni died soon after. Due to his young age, Karikala's right to the throne was overlooked and there was political turmoil in the country. Karikala was exiled. When normality returned, the Chola ministers sent a state elephant to look for the prince. The elephant found the prince hiding in Karuvur. His political opponents arrested and imprisoned him. The prison was set on fire that night. Karikala escaped the fire and, with the help of his uncle Irum-pitar-thalaiyan, defeated his enemies. Karikala’s leg was scorched in the fire and from thence Karikala became his name.
Patti-nappaalai, written in praise of Karikala also describes this incident:
- Like the Tiger cub with its sharp claws and its curved stripes growing (strong) within the cage, his strength came to maturity (like wood in grain) while he was in the bondage of his enemies. As the large trunked elephant pulls down the banks of the pit, and joins its mate, even so after deep and careful consideration, he drew his sword, effected his escape by overpowering the strong guard and attained his glorious heritage in due course.
Battle of Venni
According to Poruna-raatr-uppadai
, Karikala Chola fought a great battle at Venni near Thanjavur
in which both Pandya
suffered crushing defeat. Although we know very little about the circumstances leading to this battle, there can be no doubt that it marked the turning point in Karikala’s career, for in this battle he broke the back of the powerful confederacy formed against him. Besides the two crowned kings of the Pandya and Chera countries, eleven minor chieftains took their side in the campaign and shared defeat at the hands of Karikala. The Chera king, who was wounded on his back in the battle, committed suicide by starvation.
Venni was the watershed in the career of Karikala which established him firmly on his throne and secured for him some sort of hegemony among the three crowned monarchs.
Other wars and conquests
After the battle of Venni, Karikala had other opportunities to exercise his arms. He defeated the confederacy of nine minor chieftains in the battle of Vakaipparandalai. Paranar, a contemporary of Karikala, in his poem from Agananuru
mentions this incident without giving any information on the cause of the conflict.
Karikalan was one of the few Tamil kings who won the whole Sri lanka. His kallanai was built after his conquer over Singalese kingdom. It was said that he did not want to use the Tamil workers to be used for moving hard stones from mountains to the river bed, instaed he used the Singalese war prisioners to move the heavy stones to the river bed.
Pattinappaalai also describes the destruction caused by Karikala’s armies in the territories of his enemies and adds that as the result of these conflicts, the 'Northerners and Westerners were depressed… and his flushed look of anger caused the Pandya’s strength gave way…'
However, there is no evidence to show that Karikala’s conquests extended beyond the land of the Kaveri.
Since ancient times Karikala became the subject of many myths which in modern times have often been accepted as serious history. Cila-ppati-karam
(c. sixth century C.E.) which attributes northern campaigns and conquests to all the three monarchs of the Tamil country, gives a glorious account of the northern expeditions of Karikala, which took him as far north as the Himalayas and gained for him the alliance and subjugation of the kings of Vajra
countries. There is no contemporary evidence either in Sangam literature or from the north Indian source for such an expedition.
Raising the banks of Kaveri
Later Chola kings referred to Karikala Chola as a great ancestor, and attributed him with the building of dikes along the banks of the Kaveri
The raising of the banks of the river Kaveri by Karikala seems to be first mentioned by the Melapadu plates of Punyakumara, a Telugu Choda king of the seventh or the eighth century C.E. This story mingles with another stream of legend centering around Trinetra Pallava, and culminates in the celebrated jingle of the late Telugu Choda inscriptions:
- karuna - saroruha vihita - vilochana – pallava – trilochana pramukha kilapritvisvara karita kaveri tira
- (He who caused the banks of the Kaveri to be constructed by all the subordinate kings led by the Pallava Trinetra whose third eye was blinded by his lotus foot.)
This has been made the basis of conclusions of the highest importance to the chronology of Early South Indian history.
Personal life and death
பாடியவர்: கருங்குழல் ஆதனார்.
பாடப்பட்டோன்: சோழன் கரிகாற் பெருவளத்தான்.
திணை: பொதுவியல். துறை: கையறுநிலை.
அருப்பம் பேணாது அமர்கடந் ததூஉம்;
துணைபுணர் ஆயமொடு தசும்புடன் தொலைச்சி,
இரும்பாண் ஒக்கல் கடும்பு புரந்ததூஉம்;
அறம்அறக் கணட நெறிமாண் அவையத்து,
முறைநற்கு அறியுநர் முன்னுறப் புகழ்ந்த
பவியற் கொள்கைத் துகளறு மகளிரொடு,
பருதி உருவின் பல்படைப் புரிசை,
எருவை நுகர்ச்சி, யூப நெடுந்தூண்,
வேத வேள்வித் தொழில்முடித் ததூஉம்;
அறிந்தோன் மன்ற அறிவுடையாளன்;
இறந்தோன் தானே; அளித்துஇவ் வுலகம்
அருவி மாறி, அஞ்சுவரக் கருகிப்,
பெருவறம் கூர்ந்த வேனிற் காலைப்,
பசித்த ஆயத்துப் பயன்நிரை தருமார்,
பூவாட் கோவலர் பூவுடன் உதிரக்
கொய்துகட்டு அழித்த வேங்கையின்,
மெல்லியல் மகளிரும் இழைகளைந் தனரே.
Pattinappaalai describes Karikala as an able and just king. It gives a vivid idea of the state of industry and commerce under Karikala who promoted agriculture and added to the prosperity of his country by reclamation and settlement of forest land. He also built the Grand Anaicut
, one of the oldest dams in the world and also a number of irrigation canals and tanks.
We know next to nothing regarding Karikala’s personal life. Naccinarkkiniyar, the annotator of Tolkappiyam, states that Karikala married a Velir girl from Nangur. He most certainly had more than one queen. There is evidence in Purananuru for Karikala’s faith in the then embryonic Vedic Hinduism in the Tamil country. Purananuru (poem 224) movingly expresses his faith and the grief caused by his passing away:
- He who stormed his enemies' forts undauntedly, who feasted his minstrels and their families and treated them to endless draughts of toddy, who in the assembly of Brahmins noted for their knowledge of Dharma and purity of life, guided by priests learned in their duties and attended by his noble and virtuous queen, performed the vedic sacrifice in which the tall sacrificial post stood on a bird-like platform, within the sacrificial court surrounded by a high wall with round bastions, he, the great and wise king alas, is no more! Poor indeed is this world, which has lost him. Like the branches of the vengi tree, which stands bare, when their bright foliage has been stripped down by shepherds eager to feed their cattle in the fierce summer, are his fair queens, who have cast off their jewels.
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