Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

The Battle of Udagai: Cholas vs. Cheras


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Battle of Udagai, Reign of Raja Raja I (Rajaraja Chola) and his achievements

Why in the news?

  • The southern part of India historically ruled by the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kings, was known for its great literature, art, culture, and temple architecture.
  • It also witnessed fierce battles among these kingdoms led by Raja Raja I.

Who was Raja Raja I?

  • His reign marked a golden era for the Chola Empire through extensive military conquests, administrative reforms, and cultural patronage.
  • Ponniyin Selvan (The Son of Ponni) is a Tamil language historical fiction novel with the story of the early days of Prince Raja Raja I (also called Arulmozhivarman).

Here are detailed facts and key events from the reign of Raja Raja I:

Background and Ascension to the Throne:

  • Full Name: Arulmozhivarman, popularly known as Raja Raja Chola I.
  • Reign:
    • He reigned from 985 AD to 1014 AD, taking the throne following the death of his father Sundara Chola.
    • He was succeeded by Rajendra I.

Military Conquests:

Raja Raja I embarked on several military campaigns that significantly expanded the Chola Empire.

  • He conquered parts of what is now Tamil Nadu, northern parts of Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, consolidating the Chola influence across the region.
  • His most notable military achievement was the conquest of the ancient Chera capital of Mahodayapuram and the invasion of Sri Lanka, where he captured the northern half of the island.
  • Nagapattinam Port was his major naval base.
  • His success allowed his son Rajendra Chola to lead the Chola invasion of Srivijaya (Sumatra) and Kadaram (Malaysia).

Administrative Reforms:

  • He streamlined the administrative structure of the empire with precise revenue collection and management systems.
  • He implemented a well-organized provincial administration with efficient governance, dividing his empire into various provinces under the control of local governors.

Cultural Contributions and Temple Building:

Raja Raja I was a great patron of the arts and architecture. Under his reign, Chola architecture and Tamil literature flourished.

  • Construction of the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur (Dravidian style).
  • Completed in 1010 AD
  • He also supported the revival of Hinduism and promoted Shaivism, actively endowing temples and supporting the livelihood of the temple priests. He called himself Shivapada Shekhara’.
  • He also allowed for the flourishing of other religious practices for example Vaishnavism and Buddhism.

Trade and Diplomacy:

  • His reign saw an increase in trade and diplomatic contacts with far-off kingdoms, including those in Southeast Asia.
  • The Chola navy played a crucial role in protecting and enhancing trade routes in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
  • To promote trade, Rajaraja sent the first Chola mission to China.

About the Battle of Udagai/Udayagiri

  • It occurred in 1003 CE between the Cholas and the Cheras at Udagai, now known as Udayagiri in Kalkulam taluk of Kanniyakumari district, during the reign of Raja Raja I, the greatest of Chola kings.
  • It was the bloodiest war in medieval Indian history, where the Cholas plundered Udagai and returned to their headquarters in Thanjavur with tonnes of gold and the best elephants.
  • The battle began with the conquest of Kanthalur Salai in the Chera Kingdom.
  • The Chola army was led by Raja Raja’s son Rajendra.

Evidence from Epigraphy

  • The Discovery of a Chola period epigraphy near Chengam suggests that Salai was an army training centre run by the Cheras.
  • The training centre was a challenge to the Cholas.
  • The battle marked the end of the relationship between the Cholas and the Cheras, which had been established through marriages.

Aftermath of the War

  • The battles terminated the relationship between the Cholas and Cheras during the reign of Rajendra Chola.
  • In 1004 CE, Raja Raja celebrated his birthday grandly in the Chera kingdom, renaming the village Muttam as Mummudi Chola Nalloor.
  • He granted the temple at Thirunanthikarai for a seven-day celebration of his birthday.
  • Subsequently, he returned to Thanjavur with gold, elephants, and cattle.
  • Kamban Manian, a Chola general, brought a Shiva idol made of emerald to Thirupazhanam near Thanjavur, though it is no longer found there.


[2020] Consider the following events in the history of India:

  1. Rise of Pratiharas under King Bhoja.
  2. Establishment of Pallava power under Mahendravarman-I.
  3. Establishment of Chola power by Parantaka-I.
  4. Pala dynasty founded by Gopala.

What is the correct chronological order of the above events, starting from the earliest time?

(a) 2 – 1 – 4 – 3

(b) 3 – 1 – 4 – 2

(c) 2 – 4 – 1 – 3

(d) 3 – 4 – 1 – 2

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