The Chola princess Alwar Parantaka Kundavai Naachiyaar, also known as Illaya Piratti, is the historical figure who has interested and inspired people the most. Kundavai was not your typical princess who resided in the anthapuram (a royal residence for women). Without her, the Chola dynasty might not have existed as it does now.
She is not the damsel in distress that most princesses of her era were, nor is she a warrior princess who fought on the battlefield with a sword. So what makes her so unique? Kundavai, a skilled political operative and diplomat, managed to keep the fort afloat despite all obstacles.
Aditha Karikalan’s younger sister Kundavai was older than Aditha’s sister Arunmozhi Varman, who became known as Raja Raja Cholan, also known as Ponniyin Selvan. Kundavai was a woman who lived in the 10th century and was born to Parantaka Sundara Chola and Vanavan Mahadevi. Kundavai was a princess who dared to challenge societal expectations for women. She was independent, educated, brave, and attractive.
She exercised autonomy over her life and catalyzed the rise of Raja Raja Cholan and Rajendra Cholan, two of the greatest Chola Kings of all time. Princesses were only employed as pawns to expand an empire through marriage during her time. She was still determined to spend her entire life in the Chola kingdom. Kundavai wished to prevent the Chola dynasty from becoming a victim of the numerous manoeuvres.
While her father was ill, her older brother was gone expanding the kingdom, and her younger brother was capturing Elangai (modern-day Sri Lanka); she held the forts of the kingdom. She was an intelligent, independent princess who served as one of Sundara Cholan, her father’s chief advisors. Her tact, wit, and intelligence won her the respect and dread of the ministers. She was an excellent illustration of beauty with intelligence.
Today, we read about Raja Raja Cholan and commend him for being such a brave and honourable emperor, but Kundavai was the only factor in his success. In order to make her younger brother an admirable Emperor in history, she raised him from an early age. Kundavai taught him everything, including combat tactics, charity endeavours, and how to be a good ruler. She was Raja Raja Cholan’s advisor, mentor, and leader even after he came to the king. Rajendra Cholan, the son of Raja Raja Cholan, was also raised by her, and she served as his tutor until her death.
She wed Aditha Karikalan’s friend, Bana Prince Vallavarayan Vanthiyadevan. She declined the opportunity to take on the role of queen, even after Vanthiyadevan was installed as the ruler of his native Bana Kingdom. She decided to live out her days as the Chola dynasty’s princess. She cherished life so much and loved her motherland.
The Controversy About Princess Kundavai:
If you are wondering whether she led a perfect life, the answer is no; she did not. Kundavai was accused of plotting against her brother Aditha Karikalan’s murder based on finding her lover Vanthiyadevan to help her younger brother Arunmozhi Varman ascend the throne.
To solve this controversy, she sent Arunmozhi Varman to expand the empire while Uthama Cholan ruled the Chola dynasty. Tackling such a controversial situation skillfully to unite the kingdom exemplifies her brilliance. No matter how many obstacles came her way, she remained resilient and let nothing deter her from working for the kingdom’s welfare.
She was the first person to introduce free healthcare. She constructed a medical facility in Tanjavur and gave it her father’s name. For its creation, she provided a sizable donation of land and handled its upkeep.
She ensured that people might practise their religions freely by commissioning numerous temples for Siva, Vishnu, and Jainism. The renowned Brihadeeswarar Temple in Tanjavur was also built with generous contributions from her.