Were Cholas Hindus?
Or were they Tamils who had no religion as is being claimed by certain sections after the success of Ponniyin Selvan I?
This renewed interest in Cholas is a good time to dwell on the dynasty that has answered all the questions that were triggered recently, as if they preempted them.
The Chola were one paranoid dynasty. They recorded every minute detail about themselves they could: on temple inscriptions, on copper plates, on palm leaves.
Some of these records that seem to be redundant are ones that ensure corroboration of facts even if someone were to tweak a source.
And as they say, only the paranoid survive. Their data has survived generations and are clearly communicating the truth about their identity and culture. Here are some of them:
The Copper Plate Genealogy
Chola Copper Plates provide a detailed lineage that tracks their geneaology. The Anbil copper plates trace their lineage from Surya back to Brahma and Thirumaal (Vishnu) and the Cholas thus consider themselves Suryavanshis.
Interestingly, the devout Shiva bhakts Cholas, name Vishnu as the first king of their dynasty and the list goes on to name Puranic kings like Harishchandra, Dushyanth, Bharatha and Bhagiratha.
Moving on to Raghuvamsha, Raghu is listed as their 36th king, promptly followed by Dasharath and Lord Rama.
Kochchenganan, a legendary king, is referenced in Puranas as a spider which constructed web over the linga to prevent Sunlight directly falling on Shiva. The spider was reborn as a Chola king.
He is credited for building 70 Shiva temples, by Vaishnavite Thirumangai Alwar.
Chola connection to all six primary Hindu Gods
Chola's family deity (kula deivam) was Nisumbasoodhani, a form of Durga/ Kaali for whom Vijayalaya Chola constructed a temple immediately after reinstating Chola rule in 846 CE.
The Murugan Temple of Saluvankuppam has inscriptions of grants from the Parantaka-1 (907 CE) and Rajaraja-1 (985 CE) periods.
There are records of grants given by Sembiyan Madhevi, the wife of Chola king Kandaraditya, for building Nallur Kamdasamy temple in Sri Lanka.
Chola imagery is filled with images of Ganesha.
Kulotunga gave the highest grants for Srirangam Ranganathar temple. As Padmabhushan R Nagaswamy writes, “the pictures emerging from the epigraphical study is that the period of Kulottunga-1 was the most prosperous period for the Srirangam temple under the Cholas”.
Chola copper plates and inscriptions had both languages - Sanskrit and Tamil.
Rajaraja gave equal wages of Rs.1200 (in 1978 value) to singers of Vedic and Tamil hymns.
There is mention of Rajadiraja Chola (1018 CE) performing Ashwamedha yagnas in line with most Chola kings who did yagnas and followed scriptures.
In short, the Shanmathas of Hinduism were all patronaged and followed by the Chola kings.
From Vaishnavam with Vishnu as their first king, to Shouram on account of being descendents of Surya, Shaktam with Nisumbasoodhani for their family deity, Kaumaram building Skanda temples, to Ganapatyam as is evident through the sculpted Ganesha and Shaivam being devout Shiva worshippers.
Yet, how can someone can claim that the Cholas were not Hindus?
But all this is nothing new. Such historically ignorant statements like "Tamils are not Hindus" have been peddled since 1973, when Kannadasan wrote Arthamulla Hindu Madham Part -2.
He systematically dismantled these hypocrisies. He said that Tamils have religion since Indus Valley civilisation and went on to write essays mentioning that Thiruvalluvar was a Hindu saint.
And when such ignorant statements come from one’s favourite director, actor or political leader, it is more so our duty to not be influenced by them but to know the truth doing due diligence. That is the greatest tribute one can pay to Thiruvalluvar - who wanted all to see the Truth, meiporul!
The Cholas were aware of how easily men are tempted to lie, for the sake of money, ideology & power. That is why they took every measure - to document their truths.
After all, it is only right to tell the truth about Cholas - who considered themselves descendants of Raja Harishchandra
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