Early Cholas - Early Legends

Early Legends

The inscriptions of the Medieval Cholas are replete with legends about the mythical Early Chola kings. The Cholas were looked upon as descended from the sun. These myths speak of the Chola king Kantaman, supposed contemporary of the sage Agastya, whose devotion brought the river Kavery into existence. There is also the story of the king Manu who sentenced his son to death for having accidentally killed a calf. Mahavamasa portrays King Elara who was defeated by Duttha Gamini (c. 2nd century BCE) as the just king who '..had a bell with a rope attached at the head of his bed, so that all who sought redress might ring it..'. King Shibi who rescued a dove from a hawk by giving his own flesh to the hungry hawk was also part of the early Chola legends. King Shibi was also called Sembiyan, a popular title assumed by a number of Chola kings.

These legends received enormous emphasis in the later Chola period in the long mythical genealogies incorporated into the copper-plate charters of the 10th and 11th centuries. The earliest version of this is found in the Anbil Plates which gives fifteen names before Vijayalaya Cholan including the genuinely historical ones of Karikala, Perunarkilli and Kocengannan. The Thiruvalangadu Plate swells this list to forty-four, and the Kanyakumari Plate runs up to fifty-two. There are other lists gathered from literary works such as Kalingathuparani. No two of these lists agree, although some names and details are common to all.

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