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Nagapattinam to Suvarnadwipa

Reflections on the Chola Naval Expeditions to Southeast Asia

Hermann Kulke, K Kesavapany and Vijay Sakhuja

Publication Year: 2009

The expansion of the Cholas from their base in the Kaveri Delta saw this growing power subdue the kingdoms of southern India, as well as occupy Sri Lanka and the Maldives, by the early eleventh century. It was also during this period that the Cholas initiated links with Song China. Concurrently, the Southeast Asian polity of Sriwijaya had, through its Sumatran and Malayan ports, come to occupy a key position in East-West maritime trade, requiring engagement with both Song China to the north and the Chola kingdom to its west. The apparently friendly relations pursued were, however, to be disrupted in 1025 by Chola naval expeditions against fourteen key port cities in Southeast Asia. This volume examines the background, course and effects of these expeditions, as well as the regional context of the events. It brings to light many aspects of this key period in Asian history. Unprecedented in the degree of detail assigned to the story of the Chola expeditions, this volume is also unique in that it includes translations of the contemporary Tamil and Sanskrit inscriptions relating to Southeast Asia and of the Song dynasty Chinese texts relating to the Chola Kingdom.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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Foreword by Shashi Tharoor

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pp. vii-viii

I am delighted to welcome a valuable addition to the limited canon of books on India’s interaction with Southeast Asia. Indian Ocean studies still remain unexplored, though the Indian Ocean and its “Maritime Silk Road” have been the main focus of global and in particular Asian history in...

Message by M. V. Subbiah

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pp. ix

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Preface by K. Kesavapany

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pp. xi-xii

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) hosted an international conference on “Early Indian Influences in Southeast Asia: Reflections on Cross-cultural Movements” from 21 to 23 November 2007 in Singapore. We acknowledge the generous funding provided by the AMM Foundation of...

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Introduction by Hermann Kulke

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pp. xiii-xx

Next to the study of the continental Silk Road, the Indian Ocean and its “Maritime Silk Road” have been the main focus of global, and in particular, Asian history in recent decades. But strangely enough, Indian Ocean studies still remain oddly bipartite. They emphasize predominantly the...

The Contributors

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pp. xxi-xxv

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1. The Naval Expeditions of the Cholas in the Context of Asian History

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pp. 1-19

In one of his inscriptions at the monumental temple at Tanjavur, King Rajendra Chola is praised for having dispatched in 1025 “many ships in the midst of the rolling sea and having caught Sangrama-vijayottunga-varman, the king of Kadaram, together with the elephants in his glorious army...

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2. Medieval Commercial Activities in the Indian Ocean As Revealed from Chinese Ceramic-Sherds and South Indian and Sri Lankan Inscriptions

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pp. 20-60

It gives me great pleasure to present a paper at this plenary session of the Conference on Early Indian Influences in Southeast Asia, since I have been working for a long time on the early historical relations between Southeast Asia and India as one of my important research topics. In the...

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3. The Military Campaigns of Rajendra Chola and the Chola-Srivijaya-China Triangle

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pp. 61-75

The Chola king Rajendra (1012–44) is known to have launched several military expeditions against kingdoms in the Indian Ocean. This paper focuses on his raids on the Srivijayan ports in the context of growing commercial activity between southern Asia and Song China...

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4. Rajendra Chola I’s Naval Expedition to Southeast Asia: A Nautical Perspective

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pp. 76-90

In the civilizational history of India, the role of the Chola kings, particularly Rajaraja I and Rajendra Chola I in building a military maritime capability was unprecedented. The architecture of their pre-eminence was built through a series of expeditions in India — in the north, deep into the...

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5. A Note on the Navy of the Chola State

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pp. 91-95

The evidence for the naval expeditions of the Chola rulers comes from the brief references in the eulogistic introductions of their inscriptions, very rarely corroborated by some literary evidence. From the early tenth century, the Chola kings took some military expeditions into Sri Lanka, obviously...

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6. Excavation at Gangaikondacholapuram, the Imperial Capital of Rajendra Chola, and Its Significance

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pp. 96-101

The emperor Rajendra Chola (1012–1044 CE) was the illustrious son of the great Chola King Rajaraja I (985–1014 CE), who shouldered the task of building, extending, and maintaining the Chola empire. The foundation laid by both Rajaraja I and Rajendra I paved the way for the existence of...

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7. New Perspectives on Nagapattinam: The Medieval Port City in the Context of Political, Religious, and Commercial Exchanges between South India, Southeast Asia, and China

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pp. 102-134

Nagapattinam (10°79'06" N, 79°84'28" E) is a seaside port town located along the east coast of South India. It is the headquarters of the Nagapattinam district. This paper is an attempt to trace the emergence of Nagapattinam as a port of commercial and religious importance in the context of...

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8. South Indian Merchant Guilds in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia

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pp. 135-157

Since the 1980s more attention has been paid to the merchant activities in the Indian Ocean than before. However, the works published so far deal mostly with the period after the coming of Europeans, and there are comparatively far fewer number of works which study the period prior to...

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9. Anjuvannam: A Maritime Trade Guild of Medieval Times

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pp. 158-167

The term añjuvaṇṇam (or añchuvaṇṇam) was first noticed in the Chēra copper-plate grants edited by Gundert (1844, pp. 115–46). In one of them, this term occurs along with maṇikkirāmam (maṇigrāmam). Gundert thought that these two names stood for the Jewish and Christian principalities...

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10. Rajendra Chola’s Naval Expedition and the Chola Trade with Southeast and East Asia

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pp. 168-177

Since ancient times, India had active maritime trade relations with many countries around the Indian Ocean. In the medieval period, South Indian states were particularly involved in this trade. Kings used to get a good deal of their income from trade and could thus afford to maintain a large...

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11. Cultural Implications of the Chola Maritime Fabric Trade with Southeast Asia

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pp. 178-192

Commerce and business prompted the Indians to cross the eastern seas. The economic contact with Southeast Asia was opened by South Indian people in pre-historic times. In bringing India and Southeast Asia closer an important part was played by the sea link. This connection was used most effectively...

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12. Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia during the Period of the Polonnaruva Kingdom

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pp. 193-207

Polonnaruva was the capital city of Sri Lanka for about two and half centuries from the late tenth century AD to the mid-thirteenth century AD. It was the centre of the Chola administration of the governors of King Rajaraja I (AD 985–1014) and his successors for over seventy...

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13. India and Southeast Asia: South Indian Cultural Links with Indonesia

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pp. 208-226

Tracing early Indian contacts with countries in Southeast Asia is still an ongoing debate, although some of these contacts are reflected in the archaeological artefacts belonging to the third century BC. However, archaeological evidence for understanding cultural relations particularly...

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14. Rajendra Chola’s Invasion and the Rise of Airlangga

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pp. 227-239

The trade network of India and Southeast Asian lands and islands in early history gave rise to the growth of trade centres visited by various foreign peoples. Around the fifth century two famous routes known as the (overland) “silk roads” stretched from China, through Central Asia, and Turkestan...

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15. Rethinking Community: The Indic Carvings of Quanzhou

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pp. 240-270

In the late thirteenth century, a Tamil-speaking community in southern China’s coastal city of Quanzhou built a temple devoted to the Hindu god Siva. The temple is no longer intact, but over 300 carvings are still within the city, on display in the collection of the local museum, and rebuilt into...

Appendix I: Ancient and Medieval Tamil and Sanskrit Inscriptions Relating to Southeast Asia and China

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pp. 271-291

Appendix II: Chinese Texts Describing or Referring to the Chola Kingdom as Zhu-nian

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pp. 292-315


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pp. 317-337

E-ISBN-13: 9789812309389
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812309372

Page Count: 337
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1

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Subject Headings

  • Choḷa dynasty, 850-1279 -- Congresses.
  • India -- Relations -- Southeast, Asia -- Congresses.
  • Southeast, Asia -- Relations -- India -- Congresses.
  • Asia -- Commerce -- History -- Congresses.
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