Let’s read the story of Rajendra Chola I.
A popular saying states that ‘Good times create weak men’. History is full of such examples. Son of great kings raised in the safety and comfort of a palace are unable to inherit the greatness of their father. Many empires have fallen down because of this. But Rajendra Chola was an exception. He was not only good but he was better than his father.
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Rajendra Chola was the only son of Rajaraja Chola. But his father rather than being protective of him, decided to take him into the battles. From the young age of sixteen, Rajendra Chola fought side by side with his father. The son and father duo started their expansion campaign against their neighbours. They started a war with the Pandyas. While Rajaraja attacked from the land, Rajendra attacked from the sea with a massive fleet of ships. The Pandyas were not ready to fight on two fronts, hence they lost.
When Rajendra Chola ascended to the throne, he inherited the whole South Indian peninsula and north Srilanka. He started his reign by increasing the number of port cities. He also fastened the process of making ships in these ports. Within ten years, he would have a fleet that could win him the world.
Meanwhile, he focused on the north of India. He was a follower of Hinduism and wanted to bring the waters of the river Ganga under his kingdom. So he started expanding his kingdom through present-day Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Both of these states were coastal states and Rajendra used a similar two-front attack on them. After expanding just a little further he had achieved his dream of touching the river Ganga. He was titled ‘Gangaikonda Chola’ for this feat.
With the whole eastern coast of India under his command, Rajendra Chola started looking beyond the sea. He first completed the unfinished business of his father in Srilanka. While RajaRaja had only captured the northern Srilanka, Rajendra extended his empire all over the island nation.
Then he moves towards the Southasian countries. Here he was able to get a hold of the goose’s neck, the Strait of Mallaca. This strait was a narrow passage of water, that ships needed to pass through to enter the Bay of Bengal. A lot of Chinese ships used this for the trade of tea and opium. Rajendra Chola made a deal with the Chinese. The Chinese were only allowed to pass the trait if they only traded with the Cholas. Rajendra Chola created a monopoly of these goods by applying this strategy. This made Cholas a very wealthy dynasty in a very short time.
Rajendra Chola spent the majority of his life on the battlefield. First, he fought alongside his father. Then he fought to expand his kingdom, first on land and then on the water. The rest of his life was spent fighting the wars to defend such a massive empire that he had created. Aptly, he died on the battlefield as well.
Rajendra Chola’s life is the epitome of vision and ambition. Ambition to extend his father’s empire, ambition to bring Ganga under his reign, and ambition to win lands beyond the limitless sea. This is why he is considered one of the greatest Kings India ever produced and south Asia ever saw.