When we look around today, there is a heated debate going on, to trace the traditional footprints of Indian civilization. There is a fear of losing out on our identity and the Hindu community is busy preserving its rituals and dharmic practices, ultimately dharma. It was not like this always.
India is a nation of very rich civilization, the oldest to say. However, the foreign invasion and cultural genocide, slowly eroded our history from our conscious. The utmost damage was done during the consecutive Mughal and British rule. Mughals and English stayed and ruled several parts of the sub-continent.
The same concept fit well for the rule of Cholas as well. Although they made many attempts to record their history, it was still distorted by the Marxist. This is the reason why the likes of Kamal Hasan can today sit and spew venom about history.
PS- 1 starts the debate on Cholas
Mani Rantam’s magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan-1 has registered a grand opening at the box office and is soon to enter the 300-crore club. PS 1 is not just a period film that would be delightful for the moviegoers, but it also presents the history of the great Chola Empire.
Any contemporary attempt to touch the historical facts often result in giving birth to different opinions in the context and the PS 1 is no different. Now, Cholas’ religious identity has been called into question.
Vetrimaaran claims Cholan wasn’t Hindu
Just after days of the release of PS1 Tamil director Vetrimaaran had claimed that Raja Raja Cholan was not a Hindu king.
Vetrimaaran started by saying that, “Continously, our symbols are being snatched from us. Saffronising Valluvar or calling Raja Raja Cholan a Hindu king is constantly occurring.” His attack was targeted at the saffron forces in politics as he cautioned the masses about cinema being a common medium, it is necessary to understand politics to protect one’s representation.
Kamal Haasan backs Vetrimaaran
In another attempt to present ill-facts in front of the country, actor turned politician Kamal Hassan stated that there existed no Hindu religion at the time of Raja Raja Cholan. Haasan voicing support to Vetrimaaran said that Raja Raja Cholan was not a Hindu king and added that during the Chola era, there was no term called ‘Hindu religion’.
Like many, inflicted with the disease called colonial hangover, Haasan credited the British for our religious identity. Haasan said, “There was no name called ‘Hindu religion’ during Raja Raja Cholan’s period. There was Vainavam, Shivam and Samanam, and it was the Britishers who coined the term ‘Hindu’ since they didn’t know how to refer to it collectively. It is similar to how they changed Thoothukudi into Tuticorin.”
Why Kamal Haasan’s remarks are right, but shallow
Before we discuss the great Chola Empire and how Hindu Raja Raja Cholan was, first let’s understand the origin of Hinduism. It was in the 17th century that the word ‘Hindu’ was coined (from the Sindhu River) by the followers of Abrahamic religions. But Sanatan Dharma, which in modern terminology is referred to as Hinduism, has existed since time immemorial.
The Vedas and Upanishads are a proof of the ancient existence of Sanatan Dharma. People like Vetrimaaran and Haasan know well how to twist facts as per the narrative that suits them. It is evident that Haasan did a word play, while mentioning the recently popularised word- Hinduism and missing out the facts on the ancient Vedic religion or the Sanatan Dharma.
BJP asks them to point out church and mosques and built by Cholas
As the controversy erupted, BJP asked Vetrimaaran to point out two churches and mosques built by Raja Raja Cholan. H Raja questioned, “He called himself Sivapadha Sekaran. Wasn’t he a Hindu then?”
When we trace the Chola Empire, facts emerge that are enough to suggest how Hindu Raja Raja Cholan was. But let’s begin with the contemporary.
During the promotional event, protagonist Vikram spoke about the great Cholas. In his address, he made mention of the Thanjavur Peruvudaiyar temple (Brihadisvara Mandir) stating that the Brihadisvara Mandir constructed by the Cholas, which had withstood six earthquakes.
He further stated that a six-kilometre ramp was built to bring a stone weighing several tonnes to place over the tower without the use of any cranes or plaster. This Shiva mandir stands tall as a deposition to the great architectural skills, artistic expertise and the wealth of the Cholas. It was built by Raja Raja Chola I and completed in 1010 AD, and stands on deposition of the Shiv-Bhakti of the Cholas.
Raja Raja Cholan: Conqueror and temple builder
The Chola Empire is the world’s longest ruling kingdom (9th-12 th century AD), whose boundaries existed from Godavari river in today’s Andhra Pradesh to the islands of Maldives in the south. The Chola Empire was strong in naval might and apart from mainland India, conquered Sri Lanka, Maldives, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand.
It was under the Cholas, that foreign trade between India and other civilisations flourished. Cholas had many feathers in the cap, be it running free hospitals, holding panchayat elections and naming cities after women.
Cholas were Shiv Bhakts and worshipped Bhagwan Shiv. Not only this, they were great temple builders. The grand Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur, built by the Cholas, was the largest building in India in that period. They built temples in the style of Pallava dynasty, like the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram. On the walls, it has been recorded just how much Raja Raja Cholan has contributed to the Sanatan Dharma.
How can a Shiv Bhakt not be a Hindu? Well, that I leave for Ventiraaman and Kamal Haasan to answer.
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