Top 10 Interesting Facts About King Rajaraja Cholan I / Arulmozhivarman (985 CE – 1014 CE)

When it comes to the South Indian dynasties and their rulers, the Chola Empire stands out for its eternal grandeur and glory. Amidst the many illustrious leaders of this great empire, there is one name that evokes a sense of awe and admiration like none other – that of the great King Rajaraja Cholan I, also known by his birth name, Arulmozhivarman. For those who have read about him in the Ponniyin Selvan books and movies, his name is synonymous with valour and heroism. His reign from 985 CE to 1014 CE marked a period of great prosperity for the Chola dynasty. 

But who was Rajaraja Cholan, really? Who is this extraordinary king that continues to captivate our hearts and minds centuries after his reign? What made him stand out among the many other kings noted in the history of the Chola Dynasty? Top 10s Only has delved deep into the annals of history to bring you the top 10 interesting facts about this remarkable ruler. These facts reveal the man behind the myth and shed light on the many accomplishments that have earned him a place in the hearts of Tamil literature and history enthusiasts.

List of Top 10 Interesting Facts About King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

When it comes to famous rulers in Tamil Nadu, King Rajaraja Cholan I or Arulmozhivarman reigns supreme. His story is not just inspiring but also captivating, especially for those who have read about him in Ponniyin Selvan books and movies.

Arulmozhivarman was born in 947 CE in Thanjavur, the second son of King Parantaka Cholan II and his queen consort, Vanavan Mahadevi. He was never expected to inherit the throne, as his older brother, Aditha Karikalan Cholan, was the heir apparent. However, destiny had other plans, and after his brother’s mysterious assassination, Arulmozhivarman was thrust into the line of ascension. His coronation in 985 CE marked the beginning of a ‘Golden Era’ that would be remembered for centuries to come.

What makes Rajaraja Cholan so interesting are the many fascinating facts that surround his reign. Here are the Top 10 Interesting Facts About King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman, the monarch who elevated the Chola Empire to a level of unmatched greatness and prosperity.

top 10 greatest chola kings of ancient india rajaraja cholan i aka arulmozhivarman
Rrajaraja Cholan I aka Arulmozhivarman

Ascending The Throne: Journey From Prince Arulmozhivarman To King Rajaraja Cholan I

The journey from prince to king was not an easy one for Arulmozhivarman, who later became known as Rajaraja Cholan I, one of the greatest kings of the Cholas. The story of Arulmozhivarman’s ascent to the throne is a tale of unexpected twists & turns that has captivated history lovers for centuries. Below is the true story of the real characters of Ponniyin Selvan, immortalised by the series of books and films.

Arulmozhivarman, who was the second son of King Sundara Cholan, was never regarded as a potential heir to the Chola throne. However, fate intervened when his older brother, Crown Prince Aditha Karikalan Cholan, was assassinated in a brutal act of vengeance. Aditha Karikalan’s mysterious murder changed the course of history, and Arulmozhivarman’s fate took a dramatic turn. This shocking event led to the unforeseen coronation of Uttama Cholan, aka Madhurantaka, the cousin of Sundara Cholan. Despite being the rightful heir to the throne, Arulmozhivarman bided his time and refrained from taking the reins of power. His patience and strategic thinking proved wise, as this quelled the looming threat of civil war. After the passing of Uttama Cholan, the path was cleared for Arulmozhivarman’s reign. In 985 CE, he ascended the Chola throne and went on to become one of the greatest kings of ancient India.

Titles Of King Rajaraja Cholan I aka Arulmozhivarman 

The Chola Dynasty was a fascinating period in Indian history, and there are many interesting facts about it. Among the many intriguing aspects of the dynasty is the custom of alternating titles for their rulers. Uttama Cholan, the predecessor of King Rajaraja Cholan I, was known as ‘Parakesari.’ Following the established tradition, Prince Arulmozhivarman adopted the title of ‘Rajakesari’ when he ascended to the throne. He also took on the regnal name ‘Rajaraja,’ which means ‘King among Kings.’

Rajaraja Cholan’s military victories earned him several other names. At the Battle of Kandalur Salai, he emerged victorious and was subsequently bestowed with the title ‘Kandalur Salai Kalam-Arutta,’ which signifies his triumph over Kandalur Salai. In addition, he adopted the title ‘Pandya Kula Shani’ (annihilator of the Pandyas) for his successful campaign against the Pandyas. To mark his dominion over the Chera, Chola, and Pandya kingdoms, he assumed the name ‘Mummudi Chola,’ which translates to ‘the Chola who wears three crowns.’

Rajaraja Cholan, a devout Shaivism follower, received the title of ‘Shivapada Shekhara,’ which signifies ‘a person who places his crown at Lord Shiva’s feet.’ He was also known as ‘Tirumurai Kanda Cholan’ (the Chola King who safeguarded the Tirumurai) due to his commitment to preserving the Tirumurai, a compilation of Tamil poems and hymns devoted to Lord Shiva.

The titles bestowed upon Rajaraja Cholan I are not only fascinating but also provide insights into the culture and customs of the Cholas.

Predecessor Of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

The history of the Chola Empire is filled with intrigue and political manoeuvring, as evidenced by the events that led to the ascension of Prince Arulmozhivarman as monarch of the Chola Empire. According to historical accounts, following the death of King Parantaka Cholan II (Sundara Cholan), his cousin Uttama Cholan was appointed as the new ruler of the Chola Kingdom, despite the expectation that the late king’s son, Prince Arulmozhivarman, would ascend to the throne. Many historians believe that this could have been a strategic move by Arulmozhivarman to stop the Empire from falling into the grips of a civil war.

After Uttama Cholan’s death in 985 CE, the crown was passed on to Arulmozhivarman, aka Rajaraja Cholan I, instead of Uttama Cholan’s son, Madurantaka Gandaraditya. This was done to ensure the lineage of Parantaka Cholan II inherited the empire. It is speculated that this was part of an agreement made between Uttama Cholan and Parantaka Cholan II before his death.

Successor Of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

The passing of Rajaraja Cholan I, also referred to as Arulmozhivarman, in 1014 CE marked the end of an era in Indian history. Rajaraja Cholan I was one of the most influential rulers in ancient India, and his legacy was carried forward by his firstborn son, Rajendra Cholan I.

During the last few years of his father’s reign, Rajendra Cholan I was made co-regent of the Chola Empire, preparing him for the daunting task of carrying forward his father’s legacy. And he did not disappoint. Rajendra Cholan I’s reign marked the most splendid period of the Chola Empire, characterized by tremendous expansion and prosperity.

predecessor and successor of rajaraja cholan
Predecessor and Successor of Rajaraja Cholan I

Interesting Facts About King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

King Rajaraja Cholan I, also known as Arulmozhivarman, was a significant figure in the history of the Chola Dynasty. He achieved great accomplishments in the course of his reign, but there are also some interesting and lesser-known facts about him. 

A fascinating piece of information concerns his older sibling, Kundavai Pirattiyar. She was an inspiring woman who initiated many innovative policies during her brother’s reign that helped the dynasty prosper. The marriage between Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan, one of Rajaraja Cholan’s top commanders, and Kundavai proved to be a significant alliance that benefited the Chola Dynasty. In the fictionalised historical novel Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki, Kundavai Pirattiyar, Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan, and Prince Arulmozhivarman (Rajaraja Cholan’s earlier name) are pivotal characters. The novel’s subsequent film adaptations have made these characters even more popular among the masses.

Another fascinating fact is that Rajaraja Cholan named his eldest daughter after his sister. Her name was Rajrajan Kundavi Alvar, and she played an important role in further strengthening relations between the kingdoms of the Cholas and the Eastern Chalukyas (Vengi). King Rajaraja Cholan I married off his eldest daughter to Vimaladitya Chalukya. From this union came a son named Rajaraja Narendra, who later married Rajendra Cholan’s daughter, Amangai Devi. Their son was Rajendra Chalukya, better known as Kulottunga I, yet another great Chola Emperor who was instrumental in merging the Chola and Chalukya dynasties.

These interesting facts showcase the Chola Dynasty’s legacy of strong family ties and political alliances. It’s intriguing to see how King Rajaraja Cholan I’s sister and daughter played a significant role in shaping his reign and continuing the dynasty’s power through marriage alliances. These lesser-known facts add depth and emotion to our understanding of this great emperor and the dynasty he represented.

Significant Cultural Accomplishments During The Reign Of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

During the reign of King Rajaraja Cholan I, there were several significant accomplishments that left a lasting impact on Indian history. 

One of the most noteworthy was the construction of the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur in 1010 CE, which still stands as a marvel of ancient architecture. This temple is also referred to by several names, such as Peruvudaiyar Kovil, Brihadeeswara Temple, Rajarajeswara Temple, Thanjai Periya Kovil, and Rajarajeswaram. This temple, which is among the biggest in India, is also included in the Great Living Chola Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple’s intricate design and detailed carvings on the walls and pillars reflect the incredible artistic and architectural talent of the Cholas. 

Rajaraja Cholan’s reign also witnessed the Thirumurai’s compilation & preservation. The collection of devotional hymns was composed by illustrious Tamil poets like Appar, Thirumurai, and Sambandar. This was a remarkable achievement, as the Thirumurai had been passed down orally for centuries and was in danger of being lost forever. Rajaraja Cholan I recognized the importance of these hymns and took steps to ensure their survival for future generations.

The significance of Rajaraja Cholan I’s reign cannot be overstated, as his cultural contributions and accomplishments had a profound impact on Indian history. His legacy continues to inspire people to this day, and his achievements in architecture and literature have left a lasting impression on Indian culture.

Administration Of King Rajaraja Cholan I aka Arulmozhivarman

Rajaraja Cholan I, known for his military prowess, was also a skilled administrator who restructured his kingdom into Valanadus (administrative units) through a land assessment and survey project conducted in 1000 CE. He established an audit system and empowered local self-government to promote accountability in public bodies.

Battles And Conquests By King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

Contemporary historians commonly refer to Rajaraja Cholan as ‘The Great’ for his remarkable achievement in expanding the Chola empire beyond the sea, a feat that had not been accomplished by any of his predecessors. His impressive military skills resulted in the creation of a formidable army and navy, marking the beginning of the Chola Empire’s greatness. Rajaraja Cholan’s reign secured the dominance of the Cholas in far-flung regions, like the Islands of the Maldives, which are located far away in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

  • Around 988 CE, Rajaraja Cholan I utilized both his navy and army to capture Kandalur Salai, an arsenal centre & military academy previously controlled by the Ay Dynasty, a powerful kingdom associated with the Pandya Kingdom. This victory marked a crucial military achievement for Rajaraja Cholan I.
  • The Chola Empire systematically conquered the Chera Perumal, Mushika and Venad Dynasties, with inscriptions indicating that the conquests began around the 11th century. Rajaraja Cholan I, and possibly his eldest son and successor Rajendra Cholan I, were involved in defeating the rulers of these dynasties, as recorded in the Senur inscription dated 1005 CE.
  • Rajaraja Cholan I conquered the Pandya Kingdom, destroying their capital and renaming it as ‘Rajaraja Pandinadu’ or ‘Rajaraja Mandalam’.
  • After establishing his power in South India, Rajaraja Cholan I targeted Sri Lanka’s Anuradhapura Kingdom, taking advantage of a military uprising that had ousted its ruler, King Mahinda V. He annexed the northern parts of the kingdom and set up a new provincial centre or capital named Jananatha Mangalam. A temple devoted to Lord Shiva, called Rajarajeshvara, was built in Rajarajapura. These events were to commemorate Rajarajan’s successful conquests in Sri Lanka.
  • The Chalukyas of Vengi, the eastern branch of the Chalukya Dynasty, also posed a threat to the dominance of the Cholas. King Bhima of the Telugu Chodas ruled Vengi after murdering the lawful ruler. However, Rajaraja Cholan I subdued and eliminated Bhima, installing Saktivarman I, Danarnava’s eldest son, as the new king of Vengi. Consequently, the Eastern Chalukya Dynasty came under the Chola’s control.
  • In 973 CE, the Western Chalukya Dynasty defeated their rivals, the Rashtrakutas, which triggered a conflict with the Chola Empire, who now considered the Chalukya Kingdom as a potential threat. In 998 CE, Rajaraja Cholan I annexed the Western Chalukya Dynasty’s provinces of Nolambapadi, Tadigaipadi and Gangapadi.
  • The Chola Dynasty faced a conflict with the Hoysala Dynasty, who were allied with the Western Chalukyas and posed a potential threat. In 1006 CE, an inscription suggests that a Chola general executed a Hoysala minister, and another inscription found in Channapatna implies that Rajaraja Cholan I defeated the Hoysalas.
  • To demonstrate naval supremacy, Rajaraja Cholan I embarked on a mission to conquer faraway islands, including Lakshadweep and even the far-off Maldives, with one of his last victories being the capture of Thiladhunmadulu atoll along with some northern Maldives islands.

Personal Life Of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

Facts about the personal life of King Rajaraja Cholan I have been discerned from several historical records. He had multiple queen consorts, including Thiripuvana Madeviyar, Prithivimahadevi, Trailokya Mahadevi, Lokamahadevi, Meenavan Mahadevi, Cholamahadevi, etc. He fathered two sons: his successor, Rajendra Cholan I, and a younger son, Araiyan Rajarajan. He also had three daughters, namely, Rajarajan Kundhavi Alvar, Mathevadigal, and Arulmozhi Chandramalli (Gangamadevi). 

Depiction Of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman In Popular Culture

The life and legacy of King Rajaraja Cholan I have captured the hearts and imaginations of people for centuries. This legendary king, who ruled the Chola dynasty with unparalleled skill and wisdom, has been immortalised in various forms of artistic expression, such as paintings, books, and movies, which have helped to keep his legacy alive.

One of the most notable depictions of Rajaraja Cholan can be found in the Ponniyin Selvan novels written by Kalki Krishnamurthy, where he is portrayed as the main protagonist of the book series alongside Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan, who goes on to marry Kundavai Pirattiyar, the elder sister of Rajaraja Cholan. The author’s vivid and descriptive writing brings to life the grandeur and majesty of the Chola Dynasty, making readers feel as though they are right there in the midst of it all.

Another literary work that depicts Rajaraja Cholan is the Tamil book Udayaar, written by Balakumaran, which focuses on the king’s decline and the ascension of his son Rajendra Chola I. Through the author’s poignant storytelling, readers get a glimpse into the challenges faced by this great king towards the end of his reign.

Rajaraja Cholan, besides being featured in literary works, was also portrayed in movies. ‘Raja Raja Chozhan’, a Tamil movie that was released in 1973, featured Sivaji Ganesan in the lead role. However, it was with the 2022 release of the Ponniyin Selvan 1 movie that audiences were truly able to witness the exploits of the Cholas as Prince Arulmozhivarman came to life on the big screen. Jayam Ravi does an outstanding job of portraying this iconic character, while actors Karthi (Karthik Sivakumar) and Trisha Krishnan also give stellar performances as Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan & Kundavai Pirattiyar, respectively.

All in all, the various depictions of King Rajaraja Cholan in popular culture serve to remind us of the incredible legacy left behind by this great king, whose contributions to Indian history and culture will never be forgotten.


The Chola period in Indian history was a time of great achievement, and at the heart of it all was Rajaraja Cholan I. This man was a true leader whose visionary ideas, fearless spirit, and boundless compassion touched the lives of countless people. Even today, centuries later, his name resonates with an awe-inspiring sense of reverence, reminding us of the incredible impact he had on his country and its people. His legacy has stood the test of time and continues to inspire generations of Indians.

If you found Rajaraja Cholan’s biography fascinating, you won’t want to miss the chance to learn about the Top 10 Greatest Chola Kings of Ancient India who shaped the history of this great nation. Read our article to explore their incredible lineage and stories.

Frequently Asked Questions About  King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman

1. Who was Rajaraja Cholan?

Rajaraja Cholan was a famous Indian king of the past who ruled over the Chola dynasty from 985 CE to 1014 CE. He is well-known for his military conquests, administrative skills, patronage of art and architecture, and successful naval expeditions. Rajaraja Cholan is also credited with building the magnificent Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the greatest architectural wonders of India.

2. Why is Rajaraja Cholan called Ponniyin Selvan?

Rajaraja Cholan, also known as Arulmozhivarman, was called Ponniyin Selvan due to a fascinating story told in Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan books. Legend has it that he once fell into the Cauvery River, also known as Ponni Nadhi. A mysterious woman, believed to be the river Goddess, saved him. From then on, he became known as Ponniyin Selvan, meaning “son of river Ponni.” 

3. Who played the role of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman, in Manirathnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ movie?

Jayam Ravi played the role of King Rajaraja Cholan I, aka Arulmozhivarman, in Manirathnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ movie. In the film, Ravi portrayed the character of a young Arulmozhivarman, who later becomes one of the most influential kings in Indian history. As an actor, Ravi brought depth and complexity to the character, showcasing the struggles and triumphs of Arulmozhivarman’s early life. Ravi’s nuanced performance highlights the emotional journey of the character, making it a memorable one for the audience. Overall, Ravi’s acting prowess adds to the richness and authenticity of the film’s portrayal of the Cholas.

4. What is Rajaraja Cholan I famous for?

Rajaraja Cholan I was a famous ruler of the Chola Empire. His military campaigns and the construction of the Brihadeeswarar Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and among the most extensive temples in India, are his most well-known achievements. His reign is considered a golden era in Tamil Nadu’s history.

5. How and when did King Rajaraja Cholan I die?

King Rajaraja Cholan I, one of the greatest rulers of the Chola dynasty, is said to have died in the year 1014 CE. The exact cause of his death is unknown, but it is speculated that he may have died due to old age or natural causes. His legacy lives on through his numerous contributions to art, architecture, and literature.

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