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Raja Raja Chozhan
Raja Raja Chola I (ராஜ ராஜ சோழன் I) born Arunmozhi Thevar (also called as Raja Kesari Varman Raja Raja Devar and respectfully as Peruvudaiyar), popularly known as Raja Raja the Great, is one of the greatest emperors of the Tamil Chola Empire of India who ruled between 985 and 1014 CE he belongs to Kallar caste of Mukkulthor.
There have been so many kings who got so many adjectives - probably difficult even to memorize - who ruled the land, but when we think of great emperor, definitely Raja Rajan comes to mind. It is not just his valor that ruled the nations across the ocean that would make us consider him great, but it is what he achieved and what he established that make us respect him as great. Isn't he our beloved emperor who preserved and made the thirumurais reign in the thamiz land, for us to get that inexplicably grand treasure ! That title ofthirumurai kanda cholan itself is sufficient for us to keep thinking of this shivapada-shekhara rajakesari rajaraja abhayakulashekara maharaja in all thankfulness.
Our great devotee emperor was born as the youngest child of second Paranthaka Cholan in the chadhaya nakshatram (shatabhishak) of aippaci month, in the family of kallar. His eldest brother Adhiththa karikalan was a very valorous prince who got assassinated at his young age. It was his elder sister kundhavai and his grand mother cempiyan madheviyar (wife of the great devotee choza emperor Kantaradhiththar (2) who composed a thiruvicaippa padhikam) who nurtured the mind of young Arunmozhi Thevar. If it is said there is a woman behind every great man, when there are two women who nurtured this man, woudn't he be doubly great outstanding the other greats ! chembiyan madhevaiyar whose beloved husband was a devotee emperor and young kundhavai were deep rooted in the devotion of Lord shiva. They guided the young mind of arunmozi in ethics, and love that matures into devotion to the Supreme. Definitely the good seeds nurtured in the young age would give great reward in the life as demonstrated by the glorious life of arunmozi.
Young aruNmozi during the reign of his father cundhara cholar, led the choza army to many victories. He was beloved very much by the people and were looking forward to him becoming the king. When his father died the mighty choza kingdom came on a plate to him. But he was so generous and wanting to uphold even the obscured rights of others that he made his uncle uththama cholar who was the son of kandarAdhiththar. Only after uththama cholar he took over the reign of the choza kingdom. He ruled from 985 A.C.E. to 1014 A.C.E. This is to be called the golden era of the land ! He really stood gigantic for other kings to look up to.
In his rule the choza empire went to the peak of glory. Though during the period of his son Rajentra chola the empire expanded further, this could be considered an extension of the trajectory set by his father. This powerful king hoisted his victorious tiger flag in all the directions he visited. That includes Pandiya, & Chera empires, shrIlanka, vengai nadu, gangapadi, thadikaipadi, nuLambapadi, kalingam, irattapadi Ezarai ilakkam, pazanthIvu pannIrayiram. He defeated the western chalukya satyashraya. As seen from above he was not just win the land wars, but also had built the capable army that could win across the ocean.
It is not just the victories that would make a rule golden, but it is the comfort the king gives to the people, efficiency in administration and the patronage to good things. When the researchers write documents after documents hailing the glory of that empire, it would be unjust to brief it out. (Those interested could refer to the book by Sadashiva Pandaraththar on the same(3).) There grew the art, architecture, valor, charity and above all the devotion to the Supreme Lord.
Our beloved emperor had just great devotion to Lord shiva from his childhood. The head that stood upright winning the salutation of various kings bowed down in all humbleness to the Lord Who dances with not even a piece of cloth to wear ! He worshipped the Lord Who burnt the mighty tripuras just like straw, all the days with heartfelt devotion. He was a very active patron and worshipper of the devotees of the Three-eyed Lord - karuvurth thevar (4), nambiyanar nambi (5) to name a few. He was very aptly called shiva pada shekara(one who adonrs the Foot of Lord shiva on the head).
Shaivism that had been the path the people were following from the time immeasurable got deep rooted in the minds of people and the possibilities for spiritual advancement of common person were tremendous. The ground was well set for the philosophers to expedite their quest of the Ultimate Truth. The glory of shaivism got rooted in all the directions his flag went. The emperor who had enough care not just in his own spiritual upliftment but that of his entire empire had set up different boards to look into the services for spiritual needs of the people. His empire was glowing rich in the shaiva devotion. However he was not intolerant to other religious thoughts. Some of the pointer to that could be his generous donation to the other religious places of worship.
Temples of Lord shiva got to a just grand glory in his service propelled by that of his grandmother and his sister. Lots of temples became durable stone structures (karrali) in these periods for the generations to come and worship thanking these devout kings. It would be quite hard to list out that only these temples were served by this sincere slave of God. This emperor stood gigantic with his empire and fame. But his mind was fully immersed in the grace of Lord shiva. He wanted to build the grandest thing, not for himself even in that glory, but to the beloved Matted-haired Lord. He built the classic temple rajarajeshwaram also known as brihatIshwarar temple. He knew "Our Eternal Lord is the King of the whole world and not me." So he called the Lord in that name. Naturally came the victories to his feet, isn't it the truth told by saint appar ( ceyya padham irandum n^inaiyave vaiyam alavum vaippar marperare) ?
The greatest gift our beloved shivapada shekara maharaja has given to us is the peerless thirumurais. thirumuraikanda puranam (6) details this great event. In the court of this ardent devotee of Lord shiva, there used to be many devotees of who used to visit. They used to sing some of the verses from the thevaram sung by the three great saints of shaivism sambandhar (7), appar (8), sundharar (9). These songs each bit of which are enriched by the divinity and devotion stimulated the heart of rajarajan. He kept his hands folded above his head right in the court, with his eyes showering tears of devotion, he reached to the great experience the peaks of devotion would lead to.
Having known for self the great divinity in those songs, he wanted to hear all of them. He requested the devotees who sang those for the same. They told him they knew only few of them. The zeal of the emperor grew to collect the complete set of that great devotional treasure. When his effort to get the collection did not succeed, God showed him the way through the great devotee nambiyandar nambi (5). That young devotee was the one who was favoritely blessed by Lord ganapati that ganapati physically accepted the offerings given by him. The emperor saluted nambi and pleaded his help in getting the complete collection of thevaram. nambi got to know from the elephant headed Lord that the complete collection is available at a chamber near the chirrambalam abode at thillai where the hand seal of three saints who gave the thEvAram is found. He also got to know about the compositions and the histories of the great saints.
Taking along nambi, Raja Thevar went to thillai. Worshipping the dancing Lord there, he saluted the thillai muvayiravar (priests) and requested them to open that particular chamber. Referring to the tradition they said that the chamber could be opened only when the three who sung thevaram come in person ! The brilliant chola king held worship to the Lord nataraja and the idols of the three saints and showed to the priests that three had come and asked them to open. When the chamber was opened and the king went in with nambi, they were appalled to see the palm leaves in which the thevaram were written were covered with ant-hill ! The shaken king immediately ordered to pour oil on it and carefully pull out the palm leaves. There was a great amount already eaten by the anthill ! There is no words to explain the grief of the emperor. Then came the voice of God that only those from the thevaram that were essential for the period then on were kept intact ! That consoled the king.
King requested nambi to order the thiruppadhikams of the thevaram. As per his request nambi made seven thirumuRais, first three of sambandhar, second three of appar and the seventh of sundharar. Subsequently adding the works of manikka vacakar(10) and other saints thirumurais were made to eleven. (At later point in history the periyapuranam (11) of cekkizar was added as the twelveth thirumurai making it complete.) Now there was one more important task. The king and nambi wanted to know the original paN (melody) in which the hymns were sung by the saints. God referred them to a lady who came in the tradition of thirunIlakanta yazppanar (12). With her help the paN of all the padhikams were discovered.
Having got the treasure the emperor ordered to make their copies in the long lasting copper plates in order to preserve them. The idea was not just to preserve them as show pieces somewhere. He arranged for many people to learn and sing those songs in front of the God during the worship at the temples of the Lord Who is delighted by the devotional music. He supported them by granting aid to them. He made very many endowments for the same. His vigorous service to take this great treasure to the masses made the whole thamiz land thrive in this devotional marvel. If we enchant the singing of these great hymns today, it is thanks to this great devotee aided by reverend nambiyandar nambi.
Rajaraja, the great - the king who really deserves to be called so, reached the well sung Feet of the Dancing Lord in the year 1014. His service would stay in our minds as the sweet thirumuRai songs that get us the inexplicably grand God as simple loving One