Over a thousand years after his death, a court-ordered probe is trying to locate the final resting place of Chola King Raja Raja Chola. A panel of archaeologists has been examining a site in Udayalur in Thanjavur district, where he was reportedly buried after his death in 1014 AD. The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ordered the probe following a PIL that demanded the construction of a ‘manimandapam' (memorial) for the late king on par with the Statue of Unity built in memory of former Indian Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel.
“Emperor Rajaraja Cholan, ruled Tamil land upto Kalinga, two third of Sri Lanka, parts of Karnataka, Maldives and parts of East Asia between 985 and 1014 C.B. He built Thanjai Periyakoil which is an engineering marvel. Udayalur in south bank of Mudikondan river, Kumbakonam Taluk, Thanjavur District, is stated to be the burial site of King Rajaraja Chola. Hence, the above Committee is to inspect Udayalur first and find out as to whether any archaeological remains or artefacts exist there which would evidence the burial of King Rajaraja Chola. If required, excavation also has to be done and the Committee also is at liberty to take advice/ opinion/ guidance of scholars whose advice is important.” the court stated in its order on April 11.
A panel of experts comprising R Sivanandam, Deputy Director of the State Archaeology Department, GP Loganathan, Archeological Officer, Nagerkoil, J Baskar, Archeological Officer, Tirunelveli and K Sakthivel, Archeological Officer, Madurai was formed to inspect the site. Speaking to media persons after the first day of examination, the officers said that they were using the latest technological equipment to explore the area. “We are using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) method to test if there is anything below the soil surface, as ordered by the court. We will also be using GPRS ie the Ground Penetrating Radar System. The exploration will continue to take place and the results will take between a week and ten days. We will then submit a report to the High Court; it depends on the Court's orders whether an excavation is needed or not.” they said.
The panel is expected to file its report on Thursday.
It is also significant that during the hearing, the court made damning remarks regarding the status of documentation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). “Out of 3,691 ancient monument sites in India, 413 are found in Tamil Nadu, which is next to Karnataka that has got 506 sites. Out of 413 sites, excavation has been carried out in 26 sites and out of this 26 sites only in respect of Gudiyam, Thiruvallur District, along report has been filed. For the rest of the sites though excavation have been done, so far, no report has been filed (sic),” it observed.
The court directed the ASI to “file a report giving the details of the steps taken to prepare reports for the remaining 25 sites.